Maximizing Relationships Between Universities and Local Employers to Develop Relevant Career Paths and Support Student Success

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session provides research results and active discussion on approaches universities can take to partner with local employers for the purpose of supporting strategic student career choices, uncovering employment laddering options, and developing relevant career experience to lay the foundation for students to upskill in select occupational career categories.  


Yvonne is currently the Vice President of Academic Affairs for the West and Central Districts of the University of Phoenix. She has been with the University since 1997 beginning as a faculty member at the Southern California campus. During her tenure she has held various progressively responsible positions within Academic Affairs and Campus Services. She has presented and published in academic journals and conferences on topics including organizational downsizing, foundations of assessment, and corporate ethics. Yvonne lives in Cave Creek Arizona earned her PhD in Organization and Management from Capella University.
Dr. Palaroan has been with the University of Phoenix since 1999 as a Student Services Coordinator. From there, she held previous positions as an Academic Counselor, Academic Affairs Coordinator, Academic Affairs Manager, Associate Director of Academic Affairs, and currently the Director of Academic Affairs. She has been the Las Vegas Campus DAA since November 2012. After graduating from high school, Michelle went to the University of Nevada, at Reno, majored in Pre-Medicine, and minored in Psychology. She played basketball at Nevada. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she went to Minnesota State University at Mankato and received a Master of Arts in Human Performance with an emphasis in Sports Psychology. She completed her Ed.D. degree in Educational Leadership from University of Phoenix, School of Advanced Studies.
Dr. Summer Van Pelt is the Campus Director for the University of Phoenix, Bay Area Campus. Learning Centers include: San Jose, Oakland, and Livermore. Summer has been in the Higher Education field for over 15 years and is a strong proponent of education. Prior to leading the Bay Area Campus, Summer spent 11 years is Asia, where she helped establish the Overseas Military Campus for the University of Phoenix and served in a variety of roles from Campus Director and Area Director, Enrollment. The learning centers were located on military bases in Okinawa, Mainland, Japan, Korea, and Guam. The campus served our military members who were stationed in the Asia/Pacific region. In addition to her administrative position with the University of Phoenix, Summer also serves as an Associate Faculty member for the University of Phoenix, where she teaches classes in Critical Thinking and Organizational Leadership. Summer earned her Doctorate in Management in 2009, her dissertation focused on and is entitled, “The Complexities of Leading Virtual Teams”. Summer currently sits on the Board of Directors for Joint Venture Silicon Valley and serves as the President for the Bay Area Diversity Council. Summer is looking forward to becoming more informed and participate in the community, causes, and endeavors to which the Leadership Group values and engages in. In her spare time, Summer enjoys spending time with her husband, Ian, and their dogs as well as traveling, and running marathons.

Extended Abstract

Objective:  Increase student engagement, persistence, and career readiness through direct connection with local employers

Problem Statement:    An opportunity exists for Universities to partner with local employers to help support strategic student career choices and uncover employment laddering options to lay the foundation for students to upskill in select occupational career categories.  Studies indicate that students often lack the skills, knowledge or opportunities to strategically align career goals with educational aspirations and relevant job pathing.

In prior work (presented at last year’s OLC Innovate conference), the researchers conducted a literature review and solicited limited qualitative feedback and experience from educators within the University system.  This expanded research triangulates information through the use of surveys utilizing academic directors, campus leaders, and community partners.  The goal is to uncover opportunities, options and perceptions of the potential value of linking students to relevant local career options within their community.

Many people opt to attend college with the idea that college will lead him or her to a future career. According to Rotrosen, Nantz, and Nunn (2017), “many students with the same college major explore a variety of occupations and career paths, which can impact their probability of employment as well as earnings for decades to come” (para 1).  Not all students are focused on what that future career may be, while others are focused; however, are unable to break through their chosen career field or obtain a job after graduation.  As stated in University Wire, 2014, “for some students it’s tough to find jobs after graduation” (para 1). 

Professors and University administrators alike realize that the path to employment can be uncertain and are struggling with the challenge on how to increase student’s connections to employers, either during or after graduation. To address this issue, The City College of New York created a program that “combines an academic foundation and hands-on projects with four weeks of training plus 12 weeks of work and mentorship at a digital ad agency” (University Wire, 2014, para 2). The objective of this particular program is to “help its students come out of it fully prepared to finally begin their careers” (para 2). While this is one example, the challenge still remains how to assist students to connect to employers and career options. 

Similarly, Osterman and Weaver (2016) conducted a study on the connection between community colleges and employer partnerships. At the community college setting, they are known to identify and refine skills for students to be ready for the workforce. Osterman et. al, (2016) noted that despite all the training and academic preparedness for students, there is a lack of documented interactions with employers as they hire their employees (p. 524).

The researchers will triangulate information by conducting qualitative research to address these concerns using an open ended survey to multiple audiences (including business and academic leaders at both the University and the business community.  These results will be shared and provide the foundation for discussion at the conference session.

The researchers will address the following questions:


  1. How can Universities adapt to the changing workforce needs to support students in career readiness and career choices?
  2. What role could a University campus play in connecting students to career options and local market employers?
  3. What role could a University faculty member play in connecting students to career options and local market employers?
  4. How could a University campus support local employers?
  5. How can market employers leverage partnerships with University campuses?
  6. What tools or techniques can Universities employ to help support student career advancement?


Bridging the gap between college and career. (2014, Nov 04). University Wire Retrieved from

Osterman, P., & Weaver, A. (2016). Community Colleges and Employers: How Can We Understand Their

Connection? Industrial Relations, 55(4), 523-545. doi: 10.1111/irel. 12150

Rotrosen, A., Diane, W. S., Nantz, G., & Nunn, R. (2017). Where will your degree take you? career paths after college. Washington: Brookings Institution Press. Retrieved from