Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

Connecting the Dots: Helping students Link Academics and Careers

Husky Experience  |  January 2015

Many students benefit from explicit help connecting the dots between their deep academic learning, co-curricular activities and goals for life and work. Like a pixelated digital image viewed too closely, these rich learning experiences and the skills gained in each can appear to students as discrete, disconnected dots. Their connection to each other and to the future is elusive. When students are encouraged to take a step back and connect those dots, the cohesive whole becomes clearer. As they start to see the bigger picture, students begin to recognize that integrating their learning experiences inside and outside the classroom—their Husky Experience as a whole—is the foundation for meaningful lives and rewarding careers.

Faculty and staff in the programs featured in this report help students see that bigger picture by making explicit the connections between scholarly learning, work experiences, co-curricular activities and professional applications. They help students develop and practice a range of valuable academic, career and life-enhancing skills. How? By asking students to think critically, take on responsibility, engage fully, collaborate productively, step into leadership roles, reflect deeply on experiences and articulate goals. These programs provide students with mentors and a sense of community. They also offer opportunities to link academics with life after graduation and push students to take risks in ways that prepare them for success in a fast-paced, changing world.

January 2015 Feature Stories

UW resources

Faculty and staff

  • The Career Center’s faculty resource page offers examples and recommendations for helping students link academics and careers.
  • The Undergraduate Research Program helps faculty post opportunities, award credit, seek funding and refine mentoring skills.


  • Campus career centers (the Career Center, UW Tacoma’s Career Development, and UW Bothell’s Career Services) offer information on internships, job opportunities, skill-building workshops, advising, courses, job fairs and more.
  • The Undergraduate Research Program helps students find projects, get credit, seek funding, attend conferences and get published.
  • The Graduate School’s Core Programs offer online resources, career workshops, networking receptions with alumni and career symposia with employers.


  • Departments on all three campuses can invite career centers (the Career Center, UW Tacoma’s Career Development, and UW Bothell’s Career Services) to facilitate tailored workshops for students on career skills and discipline-specific job searches.

Further reading

Beyer, Catharine H., Gerald Gillmore, and Andrew Fisher. Inside the Undergraduate Experience: The University of Washington’s Study of Undergraduate Learning. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 2007.
Bridgstock, Ruth. “The Graduate Attributes We’ve Overlooked: Enhancing Graduate Employability Through Career Management Skills.” Higher Education Research & Development 28, no. 1 (March 2009): 31–44. doi: 10.1080/07294360802444347.
Hart Research Associates. It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success. An Online Survey Among Employers Conducted on Behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), 10 April 2013.
Kuh, George D. High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), 2008.; two-page summary at
Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP). “Essential Learning Outcomes.” Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), accessed 15 January 2015.
National Survey of Student Engagement. NSSE Research Brief 1: Promoting High-Impact Practices, Maximizing Educational Gains. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, May 2013.
Umbach, Paul D., and Matthew R. Wawrzynski. “Faculty Do Matter: The Role of College Faculty in Student Learning and Engagement.” Research in Higher Education 46, no. 2 (March 2005): 153–184. doi: 10.1007/s11162-004-1598-1.


Many thanks to the UW faculty, students and staff who contributed their stories, and to the UW subject matter experts who lent their advice to this report, including David Nixon and Avery Cook Shinneman of UW Bothell; Katy DeRosier, Kelly Edwards and Elizabeth Lowry of the Graduate School; and Briana Randall and Susan Terry of the Career Center.
Additional contributers to the report series include Candice Douglass and Kevin Mihata of the College of Arts and Sciences; Beth Kalikoff of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL); Glenna Chang, Sean Ferris, Amanda Lobsinger and Leigh Tucker of Student Life; Kirsten Atik, Anne Browning, Janice DeCosmo, Jennifer Harris, Michaelann Jundt, Francesca Lo, Christine Stickler, Rachel Vaughn and LeAnne Wiles of Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA); Gabriel Gallardo, Erin Rowley and Kristian Wiles of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D); Tomitha Blake, Verena Hess and Alicia Palacio of Academic and Student Affairs (ASA); and Grant Kollet, Paul Rucker and colleagues of the UW Alumni Association (UWAA).


Gerald J. Baldasty, Senior Vice Provost for Academic and Student Affairs, Office of the Provost; Professor, Department of Communication
Marisa Nickle, Project Manager, Office of the Provost


Elizabeth Barrett, Research Assistant, Office of the Provost


Kris Freeman, Public Information Specialist, Office of the Provost
Ignacio Lobos, Communications Manager, UW-IT
Alexis Raphael, Senior Communications Specialist, UW-IT
Jillian Reddish, Graduate Student Assistant, Office of the Provost


Filiz Efe McKinney, Multimedia Producer, Office of the Provost
Additional images contributed by Isaiah Brookshire, Marketing and Communications Specialist, College of Arts and Sciences
Cody Char, Multimedia Content Specialist, UW Tacoma Jacob Lambert, New Media Specialist, College of Arts and Sciences
Marc Studer, Electronic Media Producer, UW Bothell and Rachel Elizabeth Brown, Jeevon Durkee, Kelsie Haakenson, Margot Malarkey and Liza Shoenfeld