Prepared for Life

Denison University revamped its approach to career exploration and readiness. Applications have soared.

The liberal arts equips students with critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that can propel them to success in any career. But in a competitive and uncertain job market, this is not enough.

Denison University decided more could be done to launch students quickly and successfully into lives and careers. The university invested heavily in new academic programs and accelerating career services — a strategy that is paying off. 

Applications for admission have tripled in the last decade, and the Princeton Review recently ranked Denison #3 for career services.

“College students should not have to make false choices.”

Denison President Adam Weinberg

“College students should not have to make false choices,” said Denison President Adam Weinberg. “We should be able to deliver a life-shaping liberal arts education that also prepares students to launch quickly and successfully into lives and careers.”

Integrating career services as a central part of the liberal arts requires focus, commitment, time, and attention to nuance. 

For the past decade, Denison has been asking — and answering:

  • How can college help students explore what kind of life they want to lead? 
  • How can college programs help students identify the career paths that will help them build these lives? 
  • How does a liberal arts university ensure students graduate with the skills, habits, networks, and experiences to get started? 

“We have crafted new academic programs that help students tackle real-world problems and develop workplace skills,” said Denison Provost Kim Coplin. “For example, our data analytics program helps students develop critical thinking, communication, and other liberal arts skills while also acquiring the data skills needed to compete for great internships and jobs.”

A primary focus has been developing Denison’s Knowlton Center for Career Exploration, which takes a comprehensive approach to career launch. In addition to traditional support, the Knowlton Center weaves career services throughout the student experience, using insights and advice from employers and the college's alumni network. 

"When I graduated from Denison, I felt prepared to enter the workforce,” said Alison Schafer ’20, a new business account strategist at Google. “Three years later, as I applied for my dream role at Google, I reached out to the Knowlton Center. The team took the time to review my resume, conduct mock interviews, and even connect me with Denison alumni currently working at Google. I aced my interviews and landed the job."

“When I graduated from Denison, I felt prepared to enter the workforce.”

Alison Schafer ’20, a new business account strategist at Google

The Knowlton Center offers a broad range of programs for current students and recent graduates. Here are a few standouts that are making a big impact:

Helping students explore the life they want to lead

The Journey Program is an immersive career exploration experience designed to engage students early in the important work of self-reflection and career planning. The program is divided into four sections: reflect, imagine, plan, and build. Experienced facilitators help students gain career clarity and confidence to chart an actionable path forward. 

Designed specifically for Denison, this program draws inspiration from renowned career exploration expert Dr. Katherine Brooks, author of You Majored in What?, and the work of Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, authors of the New York Times best-selling book Designing Your Life

Building professional skills, habits, and networks

Denison Edge, a career hub in downtown Columbus, Ohio, links the college to a thriving region filled with major employers and industry experts. Classes are offered for both current students and recent graduates, recognizing that sometimes the second job — that first pivot —is the most important career step for young alums.

Through the Edge, students build skills, gain hands-on experience, and start to develop a professional network. Leveraging the college’s relationships with city business leaders, the Edge employs industry professionals and instructors with deep knowledge of the skills required in today’s employment landscape. The center delivers stackable credentials, such as analytics, finance, and logistics, to prepare students for a variety of roles.

Developing professional experience and confidence

Red Frame Lab, a center for design thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship, has proven wildly popular among both students and clients. One of its programs, RED Corps, employs student teams to assess actual organizational challenges and propose solutions using skills in research methodology, data analysis, and human-centered design. 

Another program, Denison Consulting, connects student consultants with companies looking to solve a variety of operational problems. This past fall, students worked with Wendy’s International conducting interviews, crunching data, and researching how the fast-food giant could increase its franchisee opportunities in 20 cities, especially among women and minority groups.

Leveraging alumni connections and mentorship

A new program, Ask a Denisonian, uses AI-enabled software developed to facilitate connections between students and alums. A student or recent alum can pose any career-related question, and the program identifies alums who are well-suited to answer. If the fit is good, the two choose the most convenient way to connect — via email, phone call, Zoom, or in person.

Denison takes a bold position with its incoming students: College should be a great four years, but not the best four years of your life. By engaging students in both a life-changing liberal arts education and a wide range of career launch programs, Denison is unlocking the potential of students to be the architects of their lives.

This content was paid for and created by Denison University. The editorial staff of The Chronicle had no role in its preparation. Find out more about paid content.