The Integration of Career Coaching in a Senior Seminar Capstone Course to Foster Successful Student Transitions

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

Senior seminar courses provide a showcase for intellectual and competency based accomplishments.  Integration of career coaching into the curriculum fosters student success and aids students in transition to graduate. Presenters will describe the design process for collaborating with Career Services in a senior seminar course at a fully online institution.


Dr. Angela M. Gibson serves as Lecturer in the Higher Education Administration Leadership doctoral certificate program and the Adult Education graduate program at Texas A and M University - Kingsville. Additionally, she serves as faculty for the Online Learning Consortium Institute for Professional Development teaching in the Online Teaching Certificate Program, designing and facilitating professional training, and serving as a mentor to professional educators. She is also a Contributing Faculty and Doctoral Advisor for the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in the Doctor of Education program. She has taught first-year, undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and professional students, designed and developed curriculum, and created initiatives and strategic planning for student engagement, first-year experience, strategic learning, and innovation. Dr. Gibson has over 25 years experience in higher education, academics, and student affairs at a diverse set of colleges and universities. She made the rank of Professor at American Public University. Angela received a M.A. in Human Performance Systems, with a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design, from Marymount University, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, with concentrations in Adult Education and Community College Education, from Texas A and M University - Kingsville. She has been published in various peer reviewed journals, is on journal editorial boards, presents at national and international conferences, and served on the Online Learning Conference Steering Committee and was the 2017 Chair of the Technology Test Kitchen. In 2019, Angela was a Campfire Keynote Speaker for the OLC Innovate Conference. Dr. Gibson is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador and volunteers as an informal STEM educator creating learning opportunities at schools and community organizations as well as providing social media outreach for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). She is a recipient of the Online Learning Consortium 2014 Effective Practice Award. In 2021 Dr. Gibson received the USAHS Board Excellence Award for Excellence in Teaching Award.
After various positions in the customer service field, Kristen discovered her passion for higher education in 2011, and has since found her home in Career Services. Kristen received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication, with a minor in Psychology from George Mason University. She is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), a Certified Myers Briggs Practitioner, as well as a Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, creating workshops for teams, leadership development, conflict resolution, self-assessment sessions, as well as supporting the student body at American Public University System (APUS). Starting as an industry specific career coach, Kristen worked her way to Manger of Career Coaching where she spent 4 years developing and mentoring a large team of industry specific career coaches. During that time she was published on multiple sites including ABC7 for her knowledge of the coaching field, along with presenting at regional conferences. For the past year, she has been spearheading the creation of APUS Career Services’ newest team, Career Exploration. As Manager of Career Exploration she is supporting the initiative of integrating Career Services into a senior seminar course, developing and implementing new processes for students and alumni, creating marketing plans, assisting with the content development of webpages, resources, emails, etc., assisting military personnel with career transitions, and more. Her team focuses on assisting transitioning students, who are unsure of their career direction. Through assessment tools, self-discovery, mind mapping, and skills gap analysis, Kristen and her team are able to connect with these students to help them set attainable career goals.

Extended Abstract

Senior seminar capstone courses create an opportunity to explore learning undertaken in a program of study at an institution of higher education.  Such a course allows students to bring together topics learned, to evaluate and assess prior learning and to apply gained knowledge and experiences. Typically a senior seminar capstone course at the undergraduate level provides a venue for learners to create a project showcasing intellectual and competency based accomplishments.

The nature of such a course is one of culminating the academic experience at the college and finalizing the full extent of the designated academic degree plan. While focus in such courses at a majority of institutions is heavily on the integration and synthesis of knowledge and skill based learning, there is an element of transition which must be acknowledged and incorporated for the success of the student.  A coordinated effort to integrate career services, career coaching in particular, into the curriculum will foster a more prepared student and aid the student in their transition to graduate and alumni of the university.

A purposeful application of goal evaluation and transitional support services may seem unnecessary when a Career Services team may be readily available at the college. However, part of the pursuit of the completion of a degree and the intent to matriculate by taking part in a senior seminar course is to continue to move from the present to the future. Integration of staff from the Career Services team directly with students, bringing the resources and guidance to the learner rather than waiting for them to walk through the door, virtual or otherwise, is key to student success (Seidman, 2005).

The online learner population includes both youth and adult learners.  While it is expected for those in senior level classes to be capable of self-directed learning, there are processes and models to incorporate into curriculum to promote academic, personal, and professional achievement. At the core is the ability for the learner to set measurable goals and take appropriate actions to achieve a transformational experience (Merriam, 2001). To be effective in life-long learning, continuous examination and evaluation of our goals and self-directed intent on efficacy there must be a process in place.

For the presentation to the OLC participants, the presenters will describe their design for a senior seminar capstone course at a fully online institution combining the academic competencies with career and professional development, the process of collaborating with Career Services to identify and incorporate career coaching into the course content and assessments, and the model for the instructional delivery to promote successful graduation and transition post-graduation.  As part of the presentation the consideration of content design including effective goal setting and evaluation of actionable steps, and strategies to create an interdisciplinary connection within the subject matter and effective standards for career coaching will be discussed.  Further, the model for continued academic and career services communication, cooperation, and collaboration will be presented as a system for potential application at other institutions to further promote student success in undergraduate transition.

The faculty course designer and instructor and the career services team members will provide considerations for beginning such a partnership, for curriculum collaboration, and for the continued iterative and evaluative process of most effectively serving the students. Mixed methods data analysis will be included in the presentation to establish the effectiveness of the model. Also, student responses and feedback to the application will be shared.

Participants will be encouraged to reflect, evaluate, and discuss how such a model could be applied at their own institutions.  Additionally, the audience will be asked for the identification of factors which may be challenging and how to work through such issues.  Further, ideas for alternative applications of such an exemplar to fit institution and population, as well as instructional delivery methods and support services, will be explored.


Merriam, S. (2001). Andragogy and self-directed learning: Pillars of adult learning theory. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2001(89), 3-14.

Seidman, A. (Ed.). (2005). College student retention: Formula for student success. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.