UC Davis Career Fair
UC Davis Career Fairs are one of the many ways the Internship and Career Center helps students connect with future employers. Students can register and attend Career Fairs for up to a year after they graduate. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Aggie Launch Prepares Students for Career Success

A Big Idea for the Next Generation of Professionals

By Ashley Han

Article Summary

  • The Aggie Launch Big Idea prepares students to find and secure fulfilling pathways after graduation.
  • Collaborators of Aggie Launch include the Internship and Career Center and Athletics’ Aggie EVO system.

The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment after spending several years consumed by classes and deadlines are now over. But the feeling may be short lived for many graduates as they face an uncertain job market in a time of high employment volatility.

UC Davis leaders know unemployment and underemployment among graduates are daunting challenges, especially this year. But they are solvable challenges – ones that the university is addressing through a new Big Idea for undergraduates, Aggie Launch.

Aggie Launch will revolutionize the services UC Davis students receive, providing resources to every student to help identify a career, professional school or interim plan (like volunteer service work) after graduation. It will set a model for how U.S. public universities can prepare students for the world of work.

“Being one of the top public schools in California is not enough,” Provost Ralph Hexter, a co-champion of the Big Idea, said. “Here at UC Davis, we’re collaborating with experts in student career and development to establish a model that will enable all students to hone competitive skills and build professional networks they can leverage after college.”

Aggie EVO Explained

UC Davis Athletics’ EVO program begins the moment new student-athletes arrive on campus, when they embark on an intentional four-year journey to develop essential academic and career skills. Throughout their first year, résumé support and self-assessment tools help students to hone their priorities. Second-year student-athletes focus on personal storytelling and career assessments to help them prepare for a successful job interview. During junior year, LinkedIn profiles are continually updated and expanded (with more connections added each year) and interview skills are strengthened, followed by internships and real-world job networking that continue until graduation. Learn more here.

The ICC will be the hub of Aggie Launch, ensuring that its services and programs reach students across the university. Marcie Kirk Holland, Aggie Launch co-champion and the center’s executive director, says that her innovative team will continually assess trends in the ever-changing world of work and hone opportunities for all students to be competitive upon graduation.

She added that one of the primary benefits is that the initiative will provide career preparation and networking opportunities to all students, regardless of socio-economic background.

“At its core, Aggie Launch is a social justice and equitable access platform,” Kirk Holland, Aggie Launch team member, said. “Unless and until career and professional development are available to all students, those who need it the most are the least likely to get it.”

A Model of Success

To see how Aggie Launch might work, look no further than Intercollegiate Athletics.

The department has run a mandatory career-preparation program for all its student-athletes program since the fall of 2017. The Aggie EVO System – short for evolution– is focused on skills, knowledge, opportunities and tools for post-graduation success.

Through Aggie EVO, student-athletes benefit from career exploration opportunities, alumni speakers, coaching on resume writing and interviewing skills, and support landing key internships to develop essential early-career experience and networks.

“Students invest a lot of time, energy and money into their education and they deserve maximum return on their investment,” Athletics Director Kevin Blue said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that the students who work hard and successfully matriculate through college and graduate are appropriately prepared for job opportunities in today’s competitive world.”

Blue, a member of the Aggie Launch team, added that Aggie EVO will serve as a model for Aggie Launch, as the campus scales up and adapts the program for students of all majors.

“At its core, Aggie Launch is a social justice and equitable access platform,” Kirk Holland, Aggie Launch team member, said. “Unless and until career and professional development are available to all students, those who need it the most are the least likely to get it.”

Senior Associate Athletics Director Mike Lorenzen said he implemented the EVO program with Blue because he remembers wandering through his professional career until finding mentors who helped align his values.

“I care a lot about helping passionate, talented people find their path so that they're set up for success in life because of my own lived experiences,” Lorenzen said. “We define launch as graduating and getting a job or a role that requires and builds upon your college degree – it sets you up for financial and social success.”

Fulfilling the Land Grant Mission

In 1908, UC Davis opened its doors as a university of applied knowledge. The land-grant mission remains today and students continue to gain practical skills needed to contribute to the state’s economy. Kirk Holland says she loves this aspect of UC Davis and looks forward to implementing career tools and resources in the curriculum and special programs.

“Partnering with Aggie Launch will allow the ICC to help departments on campus to really think of themselves as students’ first employers and give them resources they need to help our students prepare for career positions when they graduate,” she said.

The ICC has already provided faculty with resources to translate skills employers are looking for in graduates and new programs like Aggie EVO are underway. Big Ideas champions hope to do even more with donor support.

“I can't think of a higher return on investment than investing in a young person and setting them up for success in life,” Lorenzen said. “If you can set people up so that they quickly gain traction in a career field that allows them to have financial stability, success and happiness, their opportunity to contribute meaningfully to society improves dramatically.”

Learn more about Aggie Launch>> 

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