CSSE advising team earns $100k Bright Ideas grant to improve student career outcomes

Published: May 8, 2023 8:30 AM

By Joe McAdory

Are students’ resumes optimized? What about their interview skills, elevator pitches or LinkedIn profiles? Do they have an academic road map to guide them? Did recent graduates gain desired employment and what could have been better on campus to make them more marketable job candidates?

A team of advisors within Auburn Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) — Clint Lovelace, manager of academic programs, Michael Covington, coordinator of student services, and Matthew Morris, coordinator of student services — have a plan.

Their proposal, “Utilizing Professional Development to Improve Student Career Outcomes in Computer Science and Software Engineering,” pairs recent Auburn University Campus Engagement & Experience Survey (CEES) results with three required professional development classes — COMP 2800, COMP 4800 and COMP 4810 — to not only measure success, but also ensure student success moving forward. The goal: improve student outcomes, participation and academic experience. The courses are delivered in conjunction with the college’s Office of Career Development and Corporate Relations (CDCR), which has assisted in the design and delivery of the career-readiness portion of the courses.

The plan earned $100,000 as part of Auburn University’s Bright Ideas Seed Grant.

Information gained via the survey has two objectives: 1) collect 100 percent first destination job details from all students graduating from the CSSE department; 2) enhance first career outcomes for women and African American graduates. 

Lovelace said information gathered via the surveys will “better understand why women and minorities are still seeking opportunities at graduation time and helping them achieve their desired career outcomes contributes to Auburn’s Quality Enhancement Plan.”

“The survey results will provide us with a clearer picture of students’ experiences through advising, tutoring, their courses, internships, interaction with the Career Center, alumni – the whole picture,” Lovelace said. “We will examine results by quantity and quality. Beyond Auburn, did these students – now alums – get the most desirable job they wanted? Not only are these alums having first job destination success, but are they happy with their job result? What could we have done differently to better facilitate this?”

Professional development programs, which were considered pre-COVID and recently implemented, could be the answer.

“President (Chris) Roberts speaks often about the vision of Auburn becoming the best student-centered experience in America,” Covington said. “We were thinking, ‘What are ways that we can do this?’ We feel like this course sequence is the perfect vehicle in which to strive for that.”

COMP 2800, required of all sophomores, provides students with a better understanding of career paths, courses necessary along these paths, develop strategies to leverage personality strengths for academic and career success, explore industries that hire CSSE majors and develop strategies to increase career readiness.

“In this class, students not only develop resumes, but we make sure they are polished in a way that’s clearly articulate and attractive to potential employers,” said Covington. “We make sure they have a digital profile, or LinkedIn page, so they are best prepared for career fairs. They are also taught the basics of writing cover letters, how to best communicate with potential employers and make elevator pitches.”

Covington added that 2800 offers more than just job search topics. Professors are brought in and introduce students to a variety of academic/research specialties, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and data science. “By the end of the class, they should have a good idea about which direction they want to pursue, and they can strategically begin to plan their courses and electives.”

COMP 4800, taken the semester before graduation, prepares students to communicate effectively in a variety of professional contexts, further develop interview skills, best practices, what you should or shouldn’t say to a potential employer, develop strategies to utilize a digital presence for career success and learn to function as a team member.

“We’re making sure that students are prepared and ready to go to career fairs, and beyond,” said Morris. “The career fair is a requirement of the class. It’s such an incredible opportunity for students to meet many potential employers all at once. Beyond that, we continue to have conversations about their strengths – which will come up in interviews and in the workforce. We also have alumni visit and volunteer their time to provide feedback on students’ resume skills and help students develop job negotiation skills. The course isn’t designed to be a burden, or ton or work, but it’s enough to make sure that these students are prepared.

“We recently sat down with the first class to take COMP 4800, just to receive some feedback. What did they like? What didn’t they like? There were a few comments that read, ‘If I didn’t take this course, I wouldn’t have gotten this job…’ That’s very positive. Obviously, we’re learning and growing through the first iteration of this course and we’re excited to keep improving.”

COMP 4800 is divided evenly into CPSC 4800 Professional Development I and CPSC 4810 Professional Development II to accommodate the university’s online calendar. COMP 4810 is a program assessment utilizing surveys to collect program, departmental, and first destination data. Surveys will gather data on the overall student experience, including curriculum, course offerings, student services and program experience.

“Our focus is to continually offer the best student-centered experience for our students through every interaction we have — and one piece of that is the ability to address key elements, both qualitive and quantitative, of students’ success with first destination outcomes and high impact practices,” Lovelace said. “We have a strong brand, now we can take it to the next level!”

Media Contact: Joe McAdory, jem0040@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447
From left, CSSE Coordinator of Student Services Michael Covington, Manager of Academic Programs Clint Lovelace, and Coordinator of Student Programs Matthew Morris.

From left, CSSE Coordinator of Student Services Michael Covington, Manager of Academic Programs Clint Lovelace, and Coordinator of Student Programs Matthew Morris.

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