Exceptionally Employable

You have likely heard me say that William Jessup is creating an environment where students are Thriving Spiritually, receiving a Quality Liberal Arts Education, and are Exceptionally Employable. Today is my day to explain in more detail what I mean by exceptionally employable.

I am well aware of the conversation and debate regarding the difference between education and training. Many who have heard me speak about exceptionally employable have gently suggested that maybe exceptionally employable is not a good aspiration for a liberal arts university. You know the old stories about liberal arts graduates having to find work in the fast food or retail industries because they are not employable elsewhere. You know the other side of the argument, where the university is always resistant to change and prepares students for the world that passed two decades ago when its professors were graduating from college. I have opinions about both thoughts. I think they are both wrong.

You likely know that I have spent more than 30 years in some form of pastoral ministry. People would regularly ask me the question, “In the Great Commission, which is more important–evangelism or discipleship?” My answer was always yes! BOTH are absolutely vital. You can’t have discipleship without evangelism, and evangelism without discipleship violates the John 16 exhortation to bear fruit that remains. I think the same way about university education. University education equips students with the ability to think, read, write, and speak well, among other disciplines. Here at Jessup, our University Learning Goals (http://www.jessup.edu/ departments-and-programs/educational-philosophy-goals-and-objectives ) spell out clearly our desire to integrate faith and learning. HOWEVER, here at Jessup we are also deeply devoted to the notion that as a Christ-centered University, our mandate is to be servant leaders engaged in the work of transformation. That transformative work happens in us personally, in organizations we lead and serve, and in our culture.

So, I do NOT see any conflict between having a quality liberal arts education and being exceptionally employable; in fact, quite the opposite. Christy Jewell, in our Office of Career Services can tell you many stories of Jessup graduates that were hired BECAUSE they had a liberal arts education from a faith-based institution. Many employers already trust Jessup and its graduates to be moral, trustworthy, and prepared to think and lead well. I had the privilege to attend a WASC (our accreditation agency) briefing in the fall of 2011 where research was shared from 2010 regarding what employers are looking for; I think you’ll be surprised at this list of what employers are looking for…I think our Jessup education can and should prepare our students for this:

Critical thinking and analytic reasoning 81%

Complex problem solving 75%

Teamwork skills in diverse groups 71%

Creativity and innovation 70%

Information literacy 68%

Quantitative reasoning 63%

So…if I could script it for our students, here is what I would call the “triple braided cord” for them to be exceptionally employable:

1) Engage their academic pursuits fully; progressively grasp general studies and major focus across the span of their four years.

2) Engage in a series of increasingly challenging and focused “real world” internships, work experience, and practical settings over their four years.

3) Engage with a Christ following community of relationships where they are mentored, encouraged, held accountable, and growing in and over time.

If our students do those three things, they will not only be exceptionally employable at graduation, but will have multiple options to pursue. Employers are looking for people who can think and communicate well, collaborate with others well, and integrate head, heart, and hands. Jessup wants its students to have all that, for the glory of God.

John Jackson, Ph.D.