Next Level career development program expands access through faculty fellowships

Published: Jan 16, 2024 2:00 PM

By Cassie Montgomery

The Next Level career development and reflective writing program is accepting its first round of faculty fellowship applications with the intention of expanding access to more engineering students. Interested faculty should indicate the course or courses where they would like to implement Next Level assignments among other requested information in a program application and submit it to the Next Level program committee by March 1. Faculty selected as Next Level fellows will be required to submit an implementation plan by August 2024.

“Research tells us that students often look to faculty for career guidance and to help them feel prepared for career success,” said Jon Davis, senior lecturer in biosystems engineering and a member of the Next Level program committee. “The Next Level program is designed to help faculty to connect with students regarding career-readiness topics.”

Next Level is a cross-disciplinary project with faculty, staff and administrative stakeholders from across the College of Engineering supported by the Auburn Achieve Bright Idea Seed Grant in association with the university’s quality enhancement plan. The program, which launched via a pilot program in the fall and aims to improve students’ first destination satisfaction and career readiness after college, consists of academic assignments with a focus on career development and reflective writing for incorporation in the classroom, embedding career development within the academic experience and signaling the significance of it for all students.

All assignments have defined outcomes with associated National Association of Colleges and Employers career-ready competencies as well as student outcomes set by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. A suite of assignments and materials are Canvas-ready and customized for courses from 1000-4000 levels making career development resources available early and throughout the curriculum. This is a gradual, systematic approach to career development that prepares students to explore their interests, and seek and secure professional opportunities well in advance of their graduation.

“I think the Next Level program is a great opportunity to help our students be more successful, while they are here at Auburn and in their future careers,” Davis said. “I worked in industry for 12 years before joining Auburn and I can see how much career-readiness skills and connections can benefit new graduates. 

In fall 2023, nine courses with 626 student enrollments in aerospace, biosystems, chemical, civil and environmental, and computer science and software engineering were part of the initial Next Level pilot program. Students were given a suite of Next Level assignments, spanning topics including career competency development, cover letter and thank you note-writing, reflection on impactful experiences, LinkedIn profile development, financial literacy and resume development. Through voluntary surveys distributed at the end of the semester, the committee gained insight into how the topics were received by students, which helped inform how the program will evolve going forward. Notable findings from the student feedback surveys include:

  • 80% of students indicated an appreciation for the time and space given to focus on the assignment as part of their curriculum.
  • 80% of respondents indicated the assignment helped them prepare for their next step related to career interests.
  • Increased confidence introducing or presenting themselves through written materials.
  • Increased knowledge of support services and resources within the college.

“Some of my students felt better about how their major aligned with the various career paths available to them,” Davis said, reflecting on the pilot program and the outcomes he saw among his own students. “I think they started making some connections between the technical skills they are learning in their courses and how those skills will fit into different possible careers. Hopefully, it reduced some of the anxiety some students feel about what they are capable of doing with their degree when they graduate.”

Faculty interested in the Next Level faculty fellowship can find more information and contacts at the program webpage. Those interested in submitting a Next Level faculty fellowship application should complete the Qualtrics form by Friday, March 1.

Media Contact: Cassie Montgomery,, 334.844.3668
students in a classroom

The Next Level program incorporates career development content into engineering course material to provide an equitable and systemic approach to student career development.

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