Students Get Significant Boost for Career Development

Baum family gift fills critical gap at UMKC

A $200,000 gift to the University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation from G. Kenneth and Ann Baum will help fund a major redesign /restructuring of the university’s Career Development Program, filling a critical gap at the university.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, the Comprehensive Career Development Experience will be offered to every incoming freshman and transfer student. Mel Tyler, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, said the program will guide students’ academic choices by helping them focus on their competencies and career goals beginning in their freshman year. The program will work to reach students through career advisors, academic counselors and the classroom.

“This is an important aspect of student engagement,” Tyler said. “We want students to really have an idea of what they want to do – and have a plan on how they can get there.”

The Baums approached UMKC two years ago about funding a career development program. Ken Baum saw the changing landscape ahead for college graduates. He was a guiding force in a similar program at his alma mater, Carleton College in Minnesota.

The increasingly global economy, combined with tighter budgets for many employers, have reduced the number of job openings available for new college graduates. A company that used to come to a college campus looking to recruit 20 new employees, today is looking for only a fraction as many.

“Colleges need to be more proactive about helping students prepare and plan so they can find the right career” Baum said.  “Helping students structure their college careers as pathways to a satisfying vocation that fits a student’s personality and talents will likely lead a greater number to career success. Having a career goal also has the potential to help keep students on campus to complete a degree,” Baum said.

“If we do this correctly, we can keep students dedicated to graduation and employment because they’ll know why they’re here,” he said.

Tyler said the Baums’ gift inspired the University of Missouri System to approve a start-up grant for a new faculty position. The associate professor of counseling and psychology, for which UMKC is currently recruiting, will design a university career exploration course and advisor training program.

Through the program, students will take an assessment of their strengths, values and interests before they start classes. This online assessment will be taken before student orientation beginning in May. Information from the assessment will help advisors work with students as they choose classes, develop a major and look toward a future career.

Students will be given a second assessment midway through their undergraduate career. This assessment will look more specifically at career readiness and help students fine-tune career goals.

Tyler said another important aspect to the Career Development Program is an effort to track graduates both two weeks and six months after graduation. This data will help the university assess and, if necessary, alter the career development program.

UMKC also will initiate an internship stipend program to help support students as they gain real world experiences through internships. These internships are expected to begin in the fall.

Tyler said the career development program is about putting students on a path “and helping make sure they’re on the right path.”

“It’s about helping students better understand themselves and their career choices,” he said.

The Baums’ $200,000 gift will come to the university over four years. Ken and Ann Baum hope their gift will help push UMKC in a direction its leaders already knew it should be headed.

“UMKC is one of the most important institutions we can support to ensure Kansas City’s continued growth and prosperity,” Baum said.

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