By Steven Krolak — (NEW ALBANY, Ind.) — The day is approaching when Trent Wallace, senior communications major and current president of the IU Southeast student government association (SGA), will interview for his dream job in student affairs at a major university. The conversation will revolve around skills and experience, and then it will turn to tennis, an item that the HR director has flagged on Wallace’s application. Wallace will reflect on tennis, sharing the fact that he has played since age seven, and then delving into how being a KIAC all-conference member of the Grenadier tennis team has fueled his drive to succeed in life.
If he gets the job, it may be down, in part, to tennis.
Once upon a time, a one-page resume of niche-related skills and experience was good enough to land a job after college. In today’s super-competitive environment, more top-spin may be needed for truly exceptional candidates to stand out from their peers, all of whom may meet the required qualifications and look good on paper.
Enter the co-curricular transcript, a vehicle for students to document their college journey in a way that makes this information readily available when it comes time to demonstrate what drives them to achieve.
The value of involvement
The co-curricular transcript isn’t really a transcript. It’s a mindset of continuous improvement.
When students add activities and engagements to their transcript, it mirrors and amplifies their academic progress, helping to place classwork into a social context while opening new avenues for intellectual exploration.
“The notion that learning occurs in all elements of the university becomes tangible through co-curricular transcripts,” said Jason Meriwether, vice chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs at IU Southeast. “Campus Life does not simply track participation, but ties student engagement to our learning objectives and to measurable outcomes that help students understand the value of their involvement in developing character, skills, and astuteness as leaders.”
Twelve such student leaders were identified last month in winning $100 scholarships for the depth and quality of their transcripts.* The contest was devised to create more awareness in the minds of juniors and seniors, since they have a wealth of experiences and achievements to record, according to Seuth Chaleunphonh, dean of student life. Their transcripts documented involvements ranging from the economics club and gay-straight alliance to marketing internships and the tennis team.
The pathway to the co-curricular transcript on the IU Southeast campus is Grenadier Central, which was rolled out in 2015 as part of an IU-wide adoption of a software called CollegeLink. Grenadier Central records a student’s involvement in organizations and charts participation in workshops, trainings, internships, study abroad, research and other transformative experiences. It also helps students find peers with mutual interests and conviction, and thus forges a sense of community and belonging, according to Chaleunphonh.
In this way, Grenadier Central has become a type of “involvement bank,” said Chaleunphonh — a database where experiences can be deposited and recorded for personal growth and leadership development.
Involvement in Grenadier Central has increased by 70% since last August, as rising numbers of students see the value in keeping a record of their campus life, said Chaleunphonh.
“Students are learning that they do not need to wait until they earn their degrees to contribute to the surrounding community, academic scholarship or personal growth,” he said. “They are able to continuously reflect on their learning, one project at a time, and see the application of their learning almost right away.”
It is this self-reflection section that appeals to senior journalism major Kristin Kennedy, one of the scholarship winners.
“If employers see my reflections on the transcript, the reflections can give them a better picture of my experiences and how they have been beneficial to me.”
Working on the transcript led one scholarship winner, senior communications major Christian Bowyer, directly to several field-related opportunities, including an internship.
“It wasn’t until I started maintaining my co-curricular transcript that I became aware of how much I had done in my field of study outside of classes,” he said.
Ashley Kern, a senior English major and scholarship winner, finds Grenadier Central a useful way to organize the many facets of her college experience.
“It’s great having one central place you can add everything to,” she said. “This really helps when it comes to creating and updating your resume and applying for jobs.”
For junior education major and scholarship recipient Jessica Pilkerton, Grenadier Central and the co-curricular transcript it helps to generate are solid organizational and career tools, but they have also deepened her desire to become more involved.
“I take pride in my involvement because I want to get the full campus experience,” she said. “Through this I can think of new ways to get involved whenever I feel like I’m falling short.”
Preparing for leadership
The unique benefit of the co-curricular transcript is the way it fuses academic achievement, job-related skill-building and campus life into a presentation that mirrors the increasingly nuanced demands of many employers, especially those in sectors that value so-called “soft skills” that allow organizations to respond to changing cultural trends and market demands.
“Graduates must demonstrate greater skill in areas such as teamwork, leadership, communications, motivation, mindfulness and so forth,” Chaleunphonh said.
Danielle Leffler, director of the Career Development Center at IU Southeast, agrees.
“The transcript serves as an endorsement of the students’ co-curricular activities on their resume, which will strengthen their ability to sell themselves and their accomplishments to a future employer,” she said.
By giving students a mechanism to broaden both academic and extra-curricular life, the transcript helps the university fulfill its mission of transforming good students into great leaders.
“IU Southeast is committed to seeing graduates possess the ability to clearly articulate how their experiences as student leaders have prepared them for employment, graduate school, or entrepreneurship,” Meriwether said. “Success in the classroom, outside of the classroom, and after completion are all inextricably tied to success as a student leader.”
Wallace believes the transcript has helped him prepare for his career by encouraging a balance of classwork and extra-curricular engagement.
“Being involved has enriched my overall learning and growing experience as an individual,” he said. “It has made my campus experience great.”
Photo of Trent Wallace by Stephen Utz, IU Southeast sports information director.
Tuan Anh Vu