Post-Bac Certificates Create New Pathways for Liberal Arts Graduates
The following interview is with Dennis Di Lorenzo, dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) at New York University. The SCPS recently launched Career Pathways, a new program in the growing post-baccalaureate marketplace. In this interview, Di Lorenzo discusses the Career Pathways program in more detail and shares his thoughts on the promises and challenges of entering into this relatively untapped subsection of the postgraduate marketplace.
1. What is the Career Pathways program?
The Career Pathways program was conceived from thinking about how traditional undergrads coming right out of college with certain sets of transferable skills could hone those skills into an industry pathway. There’s a lot of conversation now about the value of a liberal arts degree and what applied, practical skills students are coming out with to apply to the job market. Take an English major who decides they do not want to get a master’s in English literature or go into research and wants to go into the workforce. If they decide they want to become a publishing professional, they can come and spend two weeks here at SCPS. They will get exposure to the industry, they will learn all about the job market in that industry, they will learn all about the practical components of the industry and, during those two weeks, we will also help them build a career development profile so that when they enter the job market they’ll be more ready to demonstrate the skills they have to offer.
2. Currently, how competitive is the marketplace for post-graduate certificates and degrees for liberal arts graduates who want to leave academics and enter the workforce?
From our perspective, our graduate programs, which are applied professional master’s degrees, are very competitive and we’re seeing growing numbers of traditional undergraduates from liberal arts programs applying to our degrees. The marketplace is fairly competitive and the number of students going into these post-baccalaureate experiences is increasing.
3. What opportunity do programs such as Career Pathways grant institutions to retain new graduates for ongoing education?
This is less about retention and more about ensuring students have the skills to become very productive, career-oriented and focused individuals. This is about maximizing opportunities for undergraduates, not necessarily retaining them into our grad program.
Yes, we expect a small percentage of them coming out of Career Pathways will be seeking post-baccalaureate educational experiences, but the primary purpose of this program is to help them enter the workforce. After they enter the workforce, our hope is that, after a few years, if they decide they do want to pursue post-baccalaureate experience, they will consider NYU SCPS as an option.
4. When you’re designing the program, are you designing it with NYU’s undergraduates in mind, or is it designed for undergraduates from anywhere to come in?
It’s designed for undergrads from anywhere to come in during our first phase because we really do believe there’s great need out in the community for students graduating from all institutions in terms of workforce development and gaining professional skills.
However, in Phase 2, we’re considering how we can apply this and make this an additional benefit to NYU undergrads.
5. What is the most significant challenge to offering this program, from an administrative perspective?
The most significant challenge to offering this program in the first phase is actually getting students to see the value in this coming right out of undergrad. We’ve launched our first phase of it and, while we’ve had a market response, we’re getting a lot of questions about why they would want to do this.
[Graduates] are so inundated coming right out of undergrad and aren’t sure about what their pathway is. Trying to explain to them the need for workforce development for a liberal arts population, bridging that gap, has been a little bit difficult.
6. Is there anything you’d like to add about the Career Pathways program and what the future holds for the post-baccalaureate marketplace?
As we investigated this marketplace, our initial target market were students coming right out of undergrad who recently graduated, but we actually extended our thinking to college juniors and seniors that are still in school and would probably benefit from this as well, as they’re thinking about entering the job market.
We’ve expanded the population we’re accepting into the program. Initially, this was going to be a program focused in the summer and now we’re looking at how we can do this in the academic year.
This interview has been edited for length.
Author Perspective: Administrator