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Mission of Career Development Center is crucial to Wichita State’s growth

As the cost of getting a college degree continues to rise, universities are feeling the pressure to demonstrate that the investment is worth it — that having a college degree will translate into having a good job.

Wichita State University’s strategic plan addresses that issue clearly, stating that every student must be given real-world experiences that will enhance their job skills and develop career opportunities.

Chris Thome
Chris Thome is a WSU graduate student studying history. He has worked as an intern in the Sedgwick County Records Management office since May 2015.

Few take that message to heart more fiercely than Connie Dietz. Connie Dietz As the executive director of WSU’s Career Development Center, Dietz and her staff lead students toward career paths.

“When Wichita State makes the pledge that our graduates will be employed in an area related to their degree, we’re a big part of the equation to make that happen,” Dietz said.

The Career Development Center is so essential to Wichita State’s growth and success that the WSU Foundation has designated it a priority in the comprehensive campaign, now in its silent phase. The fundraising campaign will be unveiled publicly in the fall.

The Career Development Center connects and interacts with WSU students beginning in their first year of college to build long-lasting relationships by working with, mentoring and navigating them through their college years. For the past 35 years, the center has formed strong relationships with public, private and nonprofit organizations that offer a variety of work-based learning opportunities for WSU students.

“The benefit of this working experience is that I encounter and learn things that I would never encounter nor learn in a classroom,” said Chris Thome, a graduate student in history.

Jean Garcia
Jean Garcia, of the Dominican Republic, graduated from Wichita State last December with a master’s degree in industrial engineering. As a student, he worked in a co-op position at CNH Industrial. After graduation, the company hired him full-time.

After WSU students graduate, the center stays connected with them and pairs them with current students in career mentoring relationships. As these alumni progress through their careers, a pipeline of future employers is created with ties to the center and the university.

Currently, the Career Development Center works with more than 250 Wichita-area employers providing on-the-job opportunities for WSU students. That number is expected to grow as more companies get involved with Wichita State through the Innovation Campus, Dietz said.

“Many of these companies will be employers who want to cultivate relationships with our students,” she said. “A large portion of that activity will go through the center.”

Funds raised through the WSU Foundation’s comprehensive campaign could be used to strengthen the center’s work by creating new student-focused programs and increasing staff to reach more students and employers. Ultimately, the center hopes to move to more spacious and accessible offices on campus. It’s currently housed in Brennan Hall, a former residence hall built in 1953. Because of a lack of space in the well-worn building, most of the center’s meetings with students and employers are held off-site, usually in the Rhatigan Student Center.

“We have a grand-scale vision for the ways in which we could be helping students with their career goals, connecting with alumni and bringing more employers to campus, but the current resources don’t allow us to meet our potential,” Dietz said.

In the meantime, the center will continue its efforts to build a college-through-career culture at Wichita State that helps demonstrate to students and prospective students how a college degree can help them achieve their dreams.