Helping Students Launch into the World

Photo of student and employers at HireHollins

Life is uncertain, but one thing we know for sure: in an evolving and disruptive economy, our students will change jobs and even sectors often. Today, a career isn’t a single outcome or destination. It’s the journey itself. What will students need for that lifelong trip? A sense of direction or purpose, navigational skills, and fuel.

Many colleges and universities recognize the need to better prepare students for changing careers and life in the 21st century. However, few have committed to a thoughtfully sequenced four-year platform that will help every student launch into the world. Our new four-year life skills and career development program is shaped by strong “bookends” as students enter and exit Hollins, with key checkpoints in the sophomore and junior years.

The bookends are a first-year holistic advising cohort and a senior seminar closely aligned with our Advising 360° initiative, in which students will be encouraged to ask: Who am I and where am I going? That query looks both inward and outward; it takes inventory in the present while imagining the future. By engaging early and often with this question, students can be more intentional about designing their lives. They can dream big and figure out how to make their own unique contributions at Hollins and beyond.

The program seeks to foster what the National Association of Colleges and Employers call the “NACE 8,” top competencies sought by employers: career management, communication (verbal and written), critical thinking, cross-cultural fluency, collaboration/teamwork, leadership, digital/information literacy, and professional work ethic. The Hollins community has identified other key orientations: an agile or growth mindset, creativity and curiosity, self-care/well-being, financial literacy, and goal-setting, prioritization, and time management. Highlights include:

Year 1 – Fall advising sessions on goal setting, time management, and well-being basics support students during their transition to college. J-Term offers time and programming to dive deeper into self-assessment and career exploration.

Year 2 – Sophomores explore the relationship between major and career, and a May “boot camp” teaches financial literacy by asking students to model the cost-benefit analysis of different career choices.

Year 3 – Juniors move toward “a summer that counts,” through a workshop series including digital/information literacies that will help them secure substantive high-impact experiences to distinguish them in future job or graduate school applications.

Year 4 – Seniors take a Real World Launch course in which they engage in life design and pursue their ideal first destinations after Hollins.

The program is intertwined with our new Experience Plus initiative, which guarantees students access to at least two high-impact experiences. Hollins already offers a wide variety of such experiential learning opportunities—leadership studies in the Batten Leadership Institute and student leadership positions; internships and on-campus employment; study abroad; community-based learning; and undergraduate research, including senior theses or other capstone projects. Experience Plus makes sure every student has had a chance to learn through experience.

Together, Hollins’ new four-year life skills and career development program and Experience Plus will stimulate a growth and innovation mindset, build confidence, and spark enjoyment as students explore their interests, claim their aspirations, and acquire the competencies to achieve their goals.

These and other campus initiatives take full advantage of our distinctive location in the vibrant Roanoke Valley. Hollins’ new Institute for Entrepreneurial Learning is designed to foster dynamic interactions between the classroom and the growing community of innovators in the region. Moreover, an expanded Career Connection Conference (C3) format this fall will include regional employers for industry-based networking; and each spring the HireHollins: Employer-Talent Showcase hosts a wide variety of organizations for a dynamic mix of networking, mentoring, and recruiting.

How can families help? Ask your student if they are talking with their advisors regularly, and attending Career Center programs. Encourage them to risk, learn, and grow. Family members are also welcome to sign up in Hollins’ Career Advising Network (CAN) and join Handshake: Career Network for College Students & Recent Grads ( as an employer to post internship and job opportunities. No one builds a life alone—it takes a village! We appreciate your commitment and support. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions (

Karen Cardozo is executive director of career development

(Photo, ahove: HireHollins: Employer Talent Showcase, March 2019)