In her first major address, on Nov. 8, Wayne State University President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D., announced plans for a university-wide, multi-year initiative called College to Career, which will broaden the institution’s approach to student success and enhance its impact on the broader community.
College to Career’s purpose is to ensure students graduate career ready and prepared to thrive.
President Espy told a large audience in the Student Center Ballroom, “Our Wayne State students learn from outstanding faculty in the classroom and graduate with cutting-edge knowledge in their discipline of study. Today’s environment, though, also requires broader marketable skills to be well prepared. Skills like problem solving, critical and creative thinking, interdisciplinary teaming, communication, and leadership. All that can be gained through ‘learning by doing’ experiences. Not just for undergraduates, for all students.”
Those experiences 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; and entrepreneurship and other business development opportunities.
After announcing the College to Career initiative, President Espy called six students and recent alumni to the stage for a panel conversation about how Wayne State 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.
Marie Hocker, a 2009 alumna with a bachelor’s in economics, is currently employed by the global philanthropic investment firm Imaginable Futures as an investment principal.
“I was able to take advantage of three study abroad opportunities,” said Hocker. “One to France, one to Poland in 2007 and one to China in 2008, and it was the first time in my life that I was more than just the narrative that often comes along with being a young, Black woman that grew up in Detroit. I realized at that point in time that the world was truly my oyster, and that I had something that I could gainfully contribute.”
The other panelists — Simon Mourani, a 2020 graduate and associate program manager of public affairs at DTE Energy; Gabrielle Rush, a current junior pursuing her bachelor’s with a dual degree in public affairs and urban studies and a minor in economics; Aleanna Siacon, a 2019 graduate with three bachelor’s degrees who is now an associate attorney at Plunkett Cooney Law; Rafael Ramos, originally from Mexico City and currently in the M.D.-Ph.D. program in the School of Medicine and working toward his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering; and Haley Boccomino, who earned their bachelor of health sciences and their doctorate of physical therapy in 2022 and is now a physical therapist on track to complete their residency in less than three months — also provided valuable advice for current students.
“My advice is to always be engaged in experiences and get involved,” said Mourani. “That’s what made my time here most memorable and most influential, and gave me lessons that made me the professional that I am today.”
President Espy will charge a campus-wide taskforce, chaired by Ahmad Ezzeddine, vice president for academic student affairs and global engagement, to develop a framework and plan with recommendations for needed infrastructure and investments to chart this expanded student success approach.
However, President Espy underscored that success will require collaboration across campus.
“When we discover how much we can accomplish together, with our talented and committed faculty and staff at the center, the sky is the limit,” said President Espy. “We just have to come together — intentionally.”
The university will also invite external partners into the planning process and leverage their thinking and assets.
“Our alumni, corporate, small business and community partners, the state and the city of Detroit are relying on us. They are relying on us to better prepare our students who are looking to take their place in the broader community and to improve the quality of life for those we seek to impact and serve. We need to expand our reach, extend our idea of student success, so we are thinking about what comes next from the very first day students arrive on campus!”
President Espy acknowledged Wayne State’s history of providing access and opportunity and driving social and economic mobility in the Detroit area and beyond.
“Wayne State is a premier urban, public, top-tier research university. Our contributions have been impressive. They’ve advanced health and science, driven the economy and economic and social well-being, elevated everything from education and the humanities to arts and entertainment. Most important, Wayne State has improved the quality of life of so many in countless communities – especially those who too often have been overlooked, disadvantaged and marginalized.”
She added Wayne State will take that success to the next level by better connecting the many pieces already in place at the university and “cementing the bridge connecting College to Career.”
“Fundamentally, it is about generational change. It means that Wayne State is a university that can take you to a different place than where you started, spawning a legacy of impact into the future. It means we make it possible for diverse families to thrive and communities to prosper.”
An overview of the College to Career initiative can be found on President Espy’s website.
TOP IMAGE: Alumni and students who participated in the College to Career discussion with President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D. (L-R) were Aleanna Siacon, Simon Mourani, Gabrielle Rush, Rafael Ramos, Haley Boccomino, and Marie Hocker.