Spotlight for Career Services ProfessionalsJuly 23, 2014
Renee Starek was well poised to adopt and implement NACE’s First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols in her role as the director of the career and professional development center at Seton Hill University.
Having worked previously at a university where the career center was tasked with obtaining a 100 percent knowledge rate of students’ postgraduation plans, Starek has followed several key steps to achieve a 94 percent knowledge rate thus far for the Class of 2014, just months after the First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols were implemented at Seton Hill.
Starek recognizes the importance of obtaining institutional support and the engagement of the students before implementation.
“I report directly to the provost in academic affairs, so I was able to easily connect with key university leadership to gain support for this endeavor and educate them on the benefits of obtaining this data consistently,” she explains. “Helping both faculty and staff understand why this data is critical and relevant for all areas of the university was a significant stride in gaining institutional support.”
Starek also visits each senior seminar class during the spring semester (she plans to do so in the fall semester as well), and explains to the students the rationale for the survey, the importance and relevance of the collected data, and when they can expect to receive the survey, and she addresses students’ questions and concerns.
“I urge them to complete the survey regardless of their plans at that point in time, even if they are seeking employment,” Starek says. “I explain that having this knowledge alerts my staff as to who may need our assistance and which new alumni we should focus on in regard to sending prospective job opportunities.
“Taking the time to speak with the graduating students has helped to obtain their buy-in to complete the survey when prompted to do so.”
Approximately three weeks prior to graduation in both December and May, the career center launches a “forced” online survey through Seton Hill’s intranet. Students are prompted to complete the survey before they can access the intranet and their university e-mail accounts.
“The survey is always sent on a Friday afternoon so that it will not impact students accessing the intranet and their e-mail accounts when most classes are scheduled at the university,” Starek notes. “Despite being a ‘forced’ survey, students can delay taking the survey and eventually opt out completely if they choose to do so.”
During the collection process, Starek monitors progress of the survey responses. For students who still need to complete the survey, she sends personalized e-mail reminders emphasizing the critical need for the data.
“I do this weekly for about three weeks,” Starek says. “For those students who do not respond by the close of the survey, we continue to connect with them via e-mail and eventually by phone, if necessary. Because of the steps taken prior to and during implementation, this number is very manageable.”
For those students who remain unreachable, Starek and her staff contact their academic advisers, whom she says often know the specific details of their students’ postgraduation plans.
“We are also able to fill in gaps using social media such as LinkedIn,” Starek adds.
Starek says there have been many positives from implementing NACE’s First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols, including:
“Also, as more schools adopt these standards and advertise their outcomes, there will be more consistency for comparison on a national level,” Starek says. “This is important for the universities as well as for prospective students trying to determine which schools offer the best fit and return on their investment.”
Based on her experience, Starek recommends that career centers find the methods of implementing the first-destination survey standards and protocols that work best on their campus.
“Obtaining support from university leadership is important and providing students with the reasons for collecting this information can go a long way,” Starek says. “The survey can also be a wonderful mechanism for collecting permanent e-mail addresses so that the career center can maintain contact with new alumni beyond graduation.”
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