College to Career aims to propel student success, strengthen Wayne State University’s talent pipeline

Earlier this month, Wayne State University President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D. announced plans for a new university-wide initiative called College to Career, which will broaden the university’s approach to student success and enhance its impact on the broader community. 

A woman stands on a stage behind a podium with a forest green Wayne State University banner on it

Wayne State University President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D. announced the new College to Career initiative during her first major address on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Photograph by United Photo Works

College to Career’s purpose is to ensure students graduate career- ready and prepared to thrive, a goal rooted in Wayne State’s Our Moment in Time five-year strategic plan. President Espy introduced the College to Career initiative during her first major address on Wednesday, Nov. 8. She touted the benefits of “learning by doing” experiences which include:

  • Interdisciplinary project-based learning and field work 
  • Internships, micro-externships, and co-ops 
  • Global experiences/education abroad 
  • Community service learning 
  • Team-based and solutions-oriented projects 
  • Research in the field and in lab settings 
  • Alumni and professional mentoring 
  • Entrepreneurship and other business development opportunities 

These experiences aim to encourage students to explore career interests while earning their degree, apply their studies to real-world environments and gain marketable skills. When looking at the benefits of the College to Career initiative for Detroit and the region, the goal is to “strengthen Wayne State as the talent pipeline for metro Detroit and the regions’ employers,” as well as “enhance and expand collaborative partnerships between Wayne State and industry, local businesses nonprofits and government organizations.”  

“Are we doing all we can to connect what our students learn in and outside of the classroom? Are we aligning their college experience as a whole with their aspirations for what comes next — not just their first job, but the decades-long career that lies ahead for them?” Dr. Espy asked the audience during the Nov. 8 address. “We need to expand our reach, extend our idea of student success, so that we are thinking about what comes next the very first day that students arrive on campus.” 

 Seven individuals sit in a line on benches, on a stage, in front of an audience. A projector behind them shows a slide that says Panel discussion

President Espy moderated a panel of six Wayne State students and alumni, who shared their experiences and how the university is preparing, or has prepared them, for their careers. Photograph by United Public Works

Their voices matter 

After announcing the College to Career initiative, President Espy called six students and recent alumni to the stage for a panel conversation about how their college experiences facilitated their early successes. Underscoring the potential power of College to Career, a common theme among the panelists was how educational and influential their “learning by doing” experiences were. 

One of those panelists was Gabrielle Rush, a junior pursuing a bachelor’s in both Urban Studies and Public Affairs at Wayne State. Rush is also currently interning at TechTown Detroit, with the organization’s Entrepreneurial Education department.  

Rush recently participated in the WJR Radio College Tour panel in late October, and says she was soon after asked to speak on the College to Career panel. “At WSU, I am not just a number but a name,” she says she shared during the panel, adding that she enjoyed hearing the different perspectives from the other panelists. “My professors are very knowledgeable and inspire me to grow more; they have taken the time to get to know me, which plays a major factor in my early success. Wayne State also offers students a lot of opportunities to be community leaders through internships like TechTown and getting involved in professional organizations. Any student can jumpstart success here if they capitalize on the resources the university offers.” 

Seven people smile for a photograph. Each of them have their hands out in front of them, with their thumbs touching, to make the shape of a W. Behind them is a projector screen presenting a slide that says

The College to Career initiative will provide "learning by doing experiences" for students, including internships, micro-externships, field work and more, to prepare them for the workforce. Photograph by United Photo Works

Continuing the work

President Espy is creating a campus-wide task force, chaired by Ahmad Ezzeddine, vice president for academic student affairs and global engagement. The task force will develop a framework, based on recommendations for needed infrastructure and investments, to chart this expanded student success approach.

The Office of Economic Development and TechTown are excited to support the College to Career initiative in the year ahead.

“We are the university that’s in, for and with this city. And by listening a little bit more, thinking creatively and then continually bringing our community into the conversation from day one, this university can do something special that most can’t,” Dr. Espy said during the Nov. 8 address. “We can remind the world of the value that colleges and universities bring to their communities. We can prepare our students to be even more incredible graduates with meaningful, long-term careers in commitment serve others. In short, we can intentionally cement the bridge connecting college to career for the betterment of our students, for our communities and for our future.”     

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