HYPE Career Ready: A toolbox for career and life

For her college graduation, Jacqueline Sironen’s parents gave her a practical gift: a toolbox. It seemed odd at first, but she’s come to appreciate it.

In her role as director of the HYPE Program and student engagement, Sironen hopes Heidelberg students will graduate with a toolbox of their own, filled with skills that will prepare them for their careers and life. 

It’s been a daunting task two years in the making, but the first year of the co-curricular HYPE Career Ready Program – now a requirement for graduation – has met most expectations. More importantly, students are finding value in the program.

“HYPE will prepare students very well for life after Heidelberg and for their first everything,” Sironen said. “The HYPE Career Ready Program is the thread that will help students tie together their academic program and their co-curricular experiences.” Increasingly, employers are looking for the soft skills of communication, collaboration and conflict management in new hires. “HYPE will help our students deliver on those skills in their first jobs, throughout their entire careers and in their lives.” 

We really believe the HYPE Career Ready Program sets us apart from others.

How the program works

Three HYPE Days are built into each semester. Each one starts with a big-name, big-time keynote speaker for inspiration. Kicking off each HYPE Day, students of all class years, faculty and staff fill Seiberling Gymnasium to hear the speakers talk about getting ready for successful careers. 

Students have taken their messages to heart. “It just feels as if everything has been made real by the HYPE Program and especially the speakers,” said first-year student Hannah Pettiti. “Pam Oliver gave me what might be the most real lesson when she told us that we don’t get to just walk into our dream jobs, that it’s something that takes time and work.”

Following the opening keynotes, first-year students then take that energy into different interactive workshops and experiences where they focus on developing one of the six HYPE Career Ready skills: values, work styles, job search skills, communication, collaboration and conflict management. These skills are aimed at getting students ready for the world of work and their chosen careers.

Sample sessions include writing cover letters, a poverty simulator, a community service project or learning about personal finance and basic car care. Others have included off-campus trips to concerts, a visit to a mosque and a trip to Detroit to explore African American culture.

Ashley Helmstetter, executive director of alumni engagement and major gifts, offered sessions on networking with an assist from the Student Alumni Association and the University Advancement & Marketing team. 

“I was impressed with the level of engagement and participation of our first-year students,” Helmstetter said. “They seemed to enjoy what they were learning and then having the opportunity to practice those skills in a comfortable and open environment.”

First-year student Keely Kipp already sees the benefit of the networking sessions. “I personally have had a lot of chances to network this past semester, but I never really knew exactly what to do until the networking course,” she said. “Now, I know how to network more efficiently and that skill will help me throughout the rest of my life.”

In the spring semester, alumni are getting more involved as session presenters. In the fall, Alumni Council members presented sessions on effective communication, making the best first impression, business ethics and healthcare advocacy. Opportunities for alumni to engage with students through the HYPE Career Ready Program will continue to grow.

Group bonding Experience

Before the school year starts, the entire freshman class takes a trip to Hocking Hills to get to know each other, start to make ‘Berg memories and kick off their college years as peers. HYPE mentor Megan Honaker, ’17, said the First-Year Common Experience trip achieved its intended results.

“We encouraged students to befriend each other and develop those friendships, but I didn’t need to do much. They did it on their own,” she said. “There are tons of students who I see who are still buddies with those people they met on the trip. I’ve heard nothing but positives about the program.”

The group bonding experience builds on the First-Year Common Experience. Sophomores will participate in a conference-style day with classmates to begin to explore their academic purpose. For juniors, community is the theme; they’ll take on a class service project in the area. Finally, seniors will celebrate their friendship and progress by taking a group trip together.

Opportunities for growth

Essentially, the HYPE Career Ready Program provides students with a set of opportunities to explore the world around them while honing skills that will make them more marketable and more productive, successful individuals in college, in their careers and in life. That message is resonating in strong ways with students.

“So far, I have learned to set goals, take responsibility, learn what it’s like to be in the real world and hear about how wonderful it is to study abroad,” said first-year student Alyxandra Perram. “The main thing I’ve learned is how many great opportunities there are here at Heidelberg and everyone just wants you to succeed.”

“My favorite part about HYPE is hearing the exciting stories and discoveries of the speakers, but also the HYPE sessions because I get to learn life skills that I don’t normally think about that will be valuable when I graduate,” she added.

Honaker, who finished her ’Berg coursework in December, wishes the program had launched a few years earlier. “I honestly wish I had had the HYPE Program my four years here,” she said. “The lessons learned during that time are so worthwhile.”

Development of the HYPE Career Ready Program was a true collaborative effort across campus with representation from faculty, staff, trustees and students. Now that it has survived some first-semester growing pains, the identity of the program is growing and  buy-in is getting a boost across campus. 

“Some parts of campus spent the first HYPE semester trying to figure out where they fit,” Sironen said. “But I’m already seeing increased participation for second semester.”

Kipp, the freshman, has already discovered its value. “HYPE teaches students how to apply marketable skills to our real lives – the lives we are building for the future. This, to me, is the most beneficial aspect of the program,” she said.

Published in Spring 17

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