A new career class for Luther students has been approved for the spring of 2022, and will provide students of all majors and minors with career-support. “GS-239: Career and Life Design” will be a two-credit class in the latter half of the spring semester, and will be taught by Associate Dean for Integrated Academic and Career Development and Professor of Biology Jodi Enos-Berlage, Director of the Career Center Sarah Crose, and Assistant Director of the Career Center Miriam Skrade (‘04).
Inspired by the textbook “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans while teaching the Rochester semester, Enos-Berlage and Skrade held a pilot version of the career class with a small cohort of students.
“Jodi and I had been inspired ourselves by reading ‘Designing Your Life,’” Skrade said. “We felt like our students would love these messages and love these tools and exercises, in addition to how we were inspired to merge it with CliftonStrengths, which was already a language that a lot of students know and was resonating with them for self-awareness and confidence. And so, the Rochester semester experiment was a chance to see if students really would like [the course] as much as we anticipated that they would; is it really [as] beneficial as we’re feeling it is for us, and that we anticipate it being for them?”
The results turned out positive. Students participating in the Rochester semester that spring reported that their stress and anxiety levels had decreased. Enos-Berlage explained that she and the other teachers of the pilot class were surprised at the success amongst the pilot group.
“I think one of the things that really impacted us when we looked into the material and read it and experienced it was the level to which it de-stressed and reduced anxiety,” Enos-Berlage said. “We definitely had that reaction from the pilot group of students.”
Catalyze coach Levi Bird (‘21) was a student who engaged in the pilot version of the career class. Bird remembered his experience as helpful and essential to designing his professional path after graduation.
“The career class was originally an idea that came out of some of my experiences that happened when I was a part of the Rochester semester as a student,” Bird said. “One of the big things that was part of the Rochester semester was to do these sort of reflection activities alongside the internship experience. Not only that, it was also about thinking about career and steps after college. For me personally, I ended up expressing that ‘oh my gosh,’ these conversations about strengths and about designing your life and stuff, doing all these things are really important.”
The new career class is open for all students and requires no prerequisites. However, Skrade said that the course would be most valuable to students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We recognize that there are barriers and prejudices and systematic problems in our nation and in our world that create lower confidence and lower self-awareness to people disproportionately,” Skrade said. “So, if we were really thinking about who needs and gains the most benefits from this class, [it] is those who are facing discriminations and facing barriers [where] other students have opportunities laid out for them.”
The course aims to ease the process of building one’s social capital. As Enos-Berlage explained, the career class will help the students with fewer opportunities and smaller networks.
“There are big differences based on just where they came from, life experiences of their families, and social networks,” Enos-Berlage said. “80% of jobs happen because you knew someone or someone knew you, and it’s all built around this social capital. So it’s critical, and not everybody has the same level of social capital. But this course is designed to help you navigate a way to build social capital, to feel comfortable and confident doing that.”
As a participant in the early version of this new career class, Bird said the course has helped him as a first-generation college student, and he encouraged students like him to take the class.
“I think this course is specifically for first-generation college students,” Bird said. “I know for myself, I was like ‘I have no idea what’s out there for careers,’ and ‘what sort of things I could do and what I have to bring,’ and I dealt with imposter syndrome a lot. So, I think anyone who’s experiencing those feelings too should definitely take this course.”