For the past five years, the University of Utah’s Black Cultural Center (BCC) has come into the new semester with at least one idea to help students improve their chances for a fruitful working life once their time of the U is completed. This year will mark one of the biggest undertakings the center has ever developed, and it could become one its most promising yet.
“Generation Next, which is building professionals of tomorrow, is a cohort program that we’re launching this fall that essentially talks about how to prepare students for postgraduate success,” said BCC director Meligha Garfield. “We ask what success looks like for them after college, whether it is going to grad school or becoming a working professional. We really want to focus on what that development looks like throughout their collegiate career.”
To fund the Generation Next initiative, the BCC received a University Innovation Alliance grant through monies from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. He said the program will be designed using a core program style that really entices the student to feel like they are well prepared for postgraduate success.
“One reason for this is that college campuses are not giving Black students access to the network building and pre-professional skill development that other students get. And this this creates a situation where those students are less equipped to compete for high-paying jobs after graduation.” Garfield said. “We have found that college campuses are not necessarily preparing our Black students to become a working professional. What we need is for students to get into majors that really develop who they are as a future professional.”
He said information gathered indicated that graduation rates and graduate school matriculation was less than other student populations. In addition, when Black students do graduate, they often find themselves in jobs that do not match their education level.
“We have also found that across the country when students graduate, particularly black students, their bachelor’s degree is compared in some instances to White students with a high school diploma as it relates to job prospects,” Garfield said. “We’ve even found with our students here (at the U) that about a third of them are using an actual LinkedIn account and less than a third of them have a Handshake account, which is used by college students to find various job opportunities.”
He said the Generation Next program will address those issues and others that prevent students from reaching their full potential when they leave the university and enter the employment market. The program will touch on every aspect of preparing for life after graduation, including social skills, professional networking, interview skills, as well as tours to numerous employers in the for-profit, non-profit, entrepreneurial and government sectors.
“We want students looking at a holistic approach to finding the best fit for the post-graduation working life,” he said. “We want them to have thoughtful conversations around what does work-life balance look like in various career fields.”
“Eventually, these students will go through the year-long program, then in the summertime, they’ll be able to enter our HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Impact program and take on internships with the HBCU students to get a meaningful experience,” Garfield said. “Also, our local students will be working towards internship opportunities after having spent their time with us building them up throughout the year.”