Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
A team in Metropolitan State University’s College of Management in Minnesota, is conducting a pilot program to study the efficacy of including entrepreneurial mindset competency into the university’s career readiness efforts. Called the H.E.R.O. Factor Program, it focuses on hope, entrepreneurial mindset, readiness, and opportunity intended to enhance career well-being.
The initiative is funded through a competitive innovation grant program that was developed by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. So far, it has provided $35,000 to Metro State for its work on this project.
“The purpose of the program is to create, pilot, and then sustain innovative practices,” explains Marcia Hagen, professor and department chair of the management, entrepreneurship, and human resource management programs within Metro State’s College of Management.
“The grant money is available to all of Minnesota’s 37 public colleges and universities. It has quite a wide net and we had to compete for that funding.”
Hagen adds that the purpose of program is to solve pressing issues that are confronting the various campuses.
“Grants were built around that premise that groups would go in and compete for money to solve problems that our campuses or our system is facing,” she notes.
Adds Denise E. Williams, associate professor in the College of Management: “Our grant is the first that Metropolitan State University has earned. We’re very excited about that.”
She notes that 47 percent of Metro State’s students are diverse, and it has a strong veteran population. They also work with a nontraditional group of adult learners who have an average age of 31, and who have work experience.
“NACE has done a great job with the research around career readiness,” Williams says. “During my sabbatical last year, I took a look at all of the best practices that universities were involved with, the criteria for career readiness, and the work our university had started under the career development area for career readiness. As an entrepreneurship and management professor and practitioner for decades, I’ve understood and have evidence that this ability to think innovatively, like an entrepreneur, is increasingly in demand in the marketplace.”
This is the case, Williams says, whether the organization is a startup or an existing business, or if it is for-profit, nonprofit, or social enterprise.
“We’ve seen a lot of universities and community colleges start some type of entrepreneurship training within their area,” she notes.
“We felt that adding innovative thinking to the career readiness model was essential. There is scholarly research to back that up.”
She also identified other drivers that she felt were missing, such as diversity sensitivity and related competencies, as well as inner awareness and thriving found in the positive psychology literature.
“Because of our history of serving diverse populations for nearly 50 years, we know that people who come in from different populations and different stakeholders have different ways of thinking,” Williams says.
“We needed to make sure we were measuring those elements, so we have a variable within the assessment to measure diversity performance. Lastly, what the literature is really identifying, and we wanted to make sure we included in our model, is this inner awareness and thriving that we didn’t find the other models measuring. That’s why we have a positive psychology aspect, for example, to include hope, flourishing, and optimism.”
Metro State’s model looks at all of these components important to career well-being including: career readiness, innovative mindset, diversity, and positive psychology.
“It captures the unique audience we have at Metro State,” Williams points out, “but we anticipate its future application to universities, community colleges, and our community at large.”
Also, as part of this project, the team has developed an extensive assessment that measures what its members believe are all of the various constructs in the model around career well-being, including career readiness.
“Quantitatively, we are working very hard to validate the model’s assessment because we believe that providing a strong, validated, and vetted assessment is essential to the program’s success,” Hagen explains.
Launched in 2018, the Metro State work began simultaneously in two different areas. This included building and validating the assessment, and paring it down to the most essential parts to understand students’ skills and abilities. At the same time, the team has been working on building learning modules and creating experiential learning workshops to support student career development and opportunities.
“We’ve also been working to create some buy-in at the departmental level, at the college level, and even at the university and system levels to see how it can best serve our students,” Hagen says.
“We have been encouraged by the support of our leadership, faculty, and staff. Even though Denise and I work in the College of Management, we're absolutely certain that these skills apply to any university student who needs the skills to walk into a place of employment and do the work, whether working for themselves or within a larger organization.”
So far, aspects of the pilot have been implemented in six courses in the College of Management and among university student-related programs. Approximately 120 students have completed Phase 1, which is the assessment. Another 30 percent of those students went through the process and participated in the professional development as well as the final assessment. Workshop interventions and partner support from community leaders, entrepreneurs, and alumni are being currently added to boost student engagement.
Williams adds that they have also been tracking qualitative results from students.
“These results are very promising,” she says.
“They really address what we want to do with this innovative initiative. The students have confirmed that they are more proactive and hopeful; and, they are becoming more aware of all of the variables. It reinforces for us that the students who are our target audience are saying this is making a difference in their lives.”