A year ago, your editorial team wrote an opinion piece about our pilot ECS 102: The Liberal Arts Edge, a one-credit, co-curricular course designed to help students learn how their liberal arts skills transfer and translate from college to career. Where are we one year later? Ask the 72 students who have taken our course. In Spring 2020, the pilot continues in Atlanta while we launch an additional course at Oxford College.

What have we learned? Well, to be honest, we have learned that we are onto something based on what our students are saying: “I have come to realize that there are many paths I can follow and that I must be flexible,” said one psychology and theater studies double major. Students are also finding clarity in their academic choices: “Thanks to what I’ve learned in the course regarding liberal arts skills and from hearing the first-hand accounts of Emory alumni, I am comfortable in pursuing this major knowing that it could lead to any number of viable outcomes post-graduation,” said another student, who is majoring in history.

Faculty are curious to connect with us because they believe in what we are doing. This course helps students bridge their academic coursework with a roadmap forward. We have a dream team of collaborators — Dr. Tracy Scott (Sociology), Dr. Susan Tamasi (Linguistics) and Dr. Robyn Fivush (Interdisciplinary Studies/Psychology). If you have a favorite faculty member that you think should join us, let us know at [email protected] Go ahead: email us your ideas and feedback, too. What do you need from Emory to navigate your college to career pathway with confidence?

Staff are eager to partner with us because they already have programs in place that guide students along the college-to-career pathway process — they just need you to show up! Did you know the Career Center offers Wayfinding Workshops? Have you heard about Career Discovery Days — a partnership with career services and alumni engagement? Are you aware Emory Libraries offer digital and information literacy skills workshops and coding skills workshops? Do you know how to create a budget so you can explore study abroad opportunities, research experiences and internships? Meet with an adviser and ask what resources exist to help you engage in these high impact experiences.

ECS 102: The Liberal Arts Edge is a vehicle to help change the culture of how students navigate their four years at Emory and beyond. Will this course solve all your problems? No. Will it give you a guaranteed job after you cross the graduation stage? No. Will it teach you about growth mindsets and help you find mentors and coaches? Yes. Will you learn how to conduct informational interviews with alumni? Yes. Will you create a roadmap and figure out how to build your way forward? Absolutely.

The pilot course is a seed in fostering President Claire E. Sterk’s One Emory vision: a collaborative, co-designed initiative from its inception. Faculty, staff and administrators from all four undergraduate units (Emory College, Oxford College, Business and Nursing) as well as “boots-on-the-ground” staff in pre-major advising, career services, global programs and more have made this course possible.

Whether you major in anthropology, marketing or nursing, you all have a foundation in the liberal arts and an edge story to share. We are integrating lessons learned into the required PACE 101 (Pre-Major Advising at Emory) course. Starting August 2019, we have migrated key components of ECS 102 into PACE 101, from “what are liberal arts skills?” to speed networking (don’t stress out — it’s just having conversations) to Handshake profiles. We, too, are building our way forward to improve these co-curricular courses.

Our favorite part of this pilot course is the capstone two-minute presentations, “What’s my Edge?” It is the pitch that you tell your parents to explain why they should support you studying abroad in India so that you can meet Tibetan monks. It is what you say when you run into Dean Elliott, Dean James or Dean McCauley on the Quad or Dean Hicks inside Seany Hall. It is how you answer an interview question for that summer internship. It is the foundation of a compelling graduate school essay. No matter where you are on your journey, our vision is that every one of you will be able to articulate your edge.

-Written by:

ECS 102 Liberal Arts Edge Lead Co-Facilitators Dana Tottenham, MA. (Senior Associate Director, Global Internships, Emory College) Shari Obrentz, Ph.D. (Associate Dean, Emory College)