Roanoke College is one of 24 higher education institutions nationwide that has been selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Council of Independent Colleges’ Work-Based Learning Consortium.
In partnership with Riipen, a technology platform that connects students with employers for experiential learning opportunities, the Work-Based Learning (WBL) Consortium will allow more Roanoke College students to access internships and develop professional skills and connections. Throughout the program, which will last three years, the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) will collect data on work-based learning at the member institutions, as well as study the impact of the projects on students, faculty and employers.
The CIC expects that more than 11,000 students across the country will benefit from the program, which has an estimated value of more than $65,000 per institution. Consortium members benefit from the partnership at no cost to the school. Funding for the initiative is made possible by the generosity of Strada Education Foundation and Ascendium Education Group.
“Roanoke College wants to provide every student access to meaningful work-related experiences before they graduate, but for a variety of reasons, it can be difficult for some students to take time for internships,” said Kathy Wolfe, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. “Embedding collaborative projects, completed for authentic audiences, into courses that are taken by all students ensures that access at scale. We’re glad to be in a community of practice with other schools that are doing this work.”
Riipen has a network of nearly 30,000 employers who post experiential learning opportunities on its platform. Those opportunities are then matched with students or groups of students, allowing them to work hands-on with real companies, community organizations, government agencies and NGOs. At Roanoke College, those projects will be incorporated into five capstone courses.
The five faculty members who teach those courses, along with one administrator from career services and one from academic affairs, will constitute a team that works with the CIC and Riipen throughout the duration of the program. The faculty members will receive a stipend for their contributions to the work. Roanoke College is grateful to the following faculty members who have agreed to serve as faculty representatives in this project:
- Michelle Hagadorn, associate professor and chair of the Business Administration and Economics Department
- Ivy Kutlu, lecturer in the Business Administration and Economics Department
- Dave Nichols, professor and chair of the Psychology Department
- Julie Schlegel, associate professor in the Health and Human Performance Department
- Nicole Terrill, visiting instructor in the Sociology and Public Health Department
Meghan Jester, director of career exploration at Roanoke, said membership in the cohort could be especially beneficial to under-represented students who have a difficult time accessing internships. For those who can’t afford to take an unpaid internship, already have a time-consuming job, or live in an area with little to no opportunities in their areas of interest, completing work-based projects during class time could be a boon. It could also be beneficial for those with demanding schedules, such as student-athletes.
“The goal of this program is to make sure that every Roanoke College student eventually has the opportunity to be in a class where this is occurring,” Jester said, “and to know that they will be doing the kind of work that an employer can value and that builds transferrable skills for today’s job market.”
Titi Ufomata, senior vice president for academic programs at the CIC, said Roanoke’s application for the program showed an impressive commitment to making work-based learning opportunities available to its students.
“This is an exciting opportunity for students to gain valuable hands-on experience through internships embedded in their courses,” she said. “That these internships are available to all students regardless of where they are located levels the playing field for all students. We are grateful to our funders for making this possible.”