Even as they prepare for their next class, midterm or final project, honors students have one eye on the future. To help them prepare for what’s next, the Honors College has developed a range of opportunities for students to explore career paths, build networks and develop professional skills while they are still undergraduates.
Through the popular Dean and Friends lunch series, for example, students can connect with Oregon State alumni and honors community members to hear about their professional journeys and build valuable connections. In 2016-2017, the Honors College held 14 of these lunches throughout the year.
Opportunities to explore different fields also take students off campus. For the last several years, the Honors College has organized tours of local companies, such as Boeing, Nike, the Port of Portland and the Portland Art Museum. “We want students to gain appreciation for the diversity of skill sets and knowledge needed to get jobs done,” says LeeAnn Baker, director of student success and engagement in the Honors College. “For example, a specific type of engineer may be working on a cross-disciplinary team.”
The Honors College curriculum – particularly the interdisciplinary colloquia courses – help students build these unique collaborative and communications skills. Workshops offered in partnership with the OSU Career Development Center on various topics, such as networking and articulating the value of an honors education, further enhance students’ professional abilities. “‘Soft skills’ might seem inherent,” Baker says, “but oftentimes that is not the case. It’s important to practice and develop strategies. So much of the market is based on building a network.”
Baker says honors students often overlook one of the most valuable experiences in the college: the thesis.
“In the thesis process, students gain both verbal and written communications skills, which employers list as a major skill they want to see,” Baker says. “They have to defend a thesis, write in the particular style of the discipline, figure out a question and how to answer it, manage a team — including their mentor and committee — and manage a long-term project over multiple terms. These are not experiences every undergraduate has.
“We want to offer the skills and strategies for students to be successful and opportunities to think outside of what they’ve already considered. What they might end up doing, they might not be thinking about now. There are many stepping stones from college to future career, so the question now is how to take that first step,” Baker says.
Working with partners and contacts both on and off campus, the college has developed several internship opportunities specifically to help honors students take that first step. One of these is the Michigan Clinical Outcomes Research and Reporting Program (MCORRP) internship made possible by Dr. Kim Eagle, an Oregon State alumnus. Another is a longstanding honors student staff position in the Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC). Read more about honors student Trisha Chau’s experience with the MCORRP internship and honors student Ethan Heusser’s experience as a student archivist in SCARC.