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Student Development

Inside University of Wyoming's SOAR Expansion: Soaring towards Career Readiness

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John Steele

Head of Marketing

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Solutions Used

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Description

University of Wyoming makes student success one of their top priorities–from experiential learning to career readiness. The university launched an initiative called “UW SOAR” specifically to keep students on track for success both inside and outside of its classrooms.

For over a year, University of Wyoming has been a partner with Suitable, using our web and mobile integrations to be as accessible as possible to students while also being personal and engaging. UW has found that with a more personalized and virtually-integrated program, more students have been engaging with the SOAR program and becoming more ready for a successful career after graduation.

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Suitable has provided us with an excellent micro-credentialing platform to engage students in wanting to progress through learning outcomes, from exposure all the way up to mastery of a concept.”

Dr. Anne Alexander, Provost, University of Wyoming

About the School

University of Wyoming, a public university in Laramie, Wyoming has over 9,800 undergraduate students studying over 45 majors across campus.

University of Wyoming’s ACES Center (Advising, Career, and Exploratory Studies Center) uses the UW SOAR program, started in 2017, to scaffold student experiences through impactful experiential learning opportunities in order to engage, shape and prepare students for their future outside of UW’s walls. Scaffolding allows students to complete these activities and achievements on their own time throughout their journey through UW, dividing each competency through four different levels.

A little over two years ago, University of Wyoming staff wanted to create a program that prepared students for the future. They also wanted a way to measure achievement towards their core competencies like community service, civic engagement, diversity and global experiences, internship and practicum experiences, and more. UW knew that in order to get their students where they wanted them to be, they would need an interactive, personalized and gamified platform to get its students engaged.

For a university like UW, professors and staff want to see students succeed and be there every step of the way. However, UW’s leaders noticed a lack of student engagement and value in the way SOAR previously functioned. SOAR’s main goal is to be a platform to provide structure for career education through activities, helping students earn achievements and rewarding them for progressing towards their career goals.

University of Wyoming takes full advantage of one of the best features of Suitable: the ability to create individual pathways within your university. One great example of this is the Poke’s Professionalism program at the University of Wyoming College of Business. Poke’s Professionalism takes the core tenets of SOAR and applies them for the specific goals, competencies and needs of their business students. Over 1100 students have participated in Poke’s Professionalism, taking UW’s Suitable program to new heights. For more info on Poke’s Professionalism, check out the UW SOAR Mini-Conference.

 

Challenges before Suitable

A little over two years ago, University of Wyoming staff wanted to create a program that prepared students for the future. They also wanted a way to measure achievement towards their core competencies like community service, civic engagement, diversity and global experiences, internship and practicum experiences, and more. UW knew that in order to get their students where they wanted them to be, they would need an interactive, personalized and gamified platform to get its students engaged.

For a university like UW, professors and staff want to see students succeed and be there every step of the way. However, UW’s leaders noticed a lack of student engagement and value in the way SOAR previously functioned. SOAR’s main goal is to be a platform to provide structure for career education through activities, helping students earn achievements and rewarding them for progressing towards their career goals.

University of Wyoming takes full advantage of one of the best features of Suitable: the ability to create individual pathways within your university. One great example of this is the Poke’s Professionalism program at the University of Wyoming College of Business. Poke’s Professionalism takes the core tenets of SOAR and applies them for the specific goals, competencies and needs of their business students. Over 1100 students have participated in Poke’s Professionalism, taking UW’s Suitable program to new heights. For more info on Poke’s Professionalism, check out the UW SOAR Mini-Conference.

Life with Suitable

Suitable and University of Wyoming worked side-by-side to transform their SOAR initiative into a mobile-first destination that allows for total access to all campus engagement opportunities. , With our mobile and web integrations, students can now access all of their goals and achievements for UW’s core competencies right from their phones.

Students can take themselves through the SOAR platform right on their phones. They can complete remote and contactless check-ins, write self-guided reflections on their experiences, submit ePortfolios for future opportunities, and fill out surveys and assessments. What appears on each student’s phone is a personalized pathway towards their individual career goals through UW’s carefully selected competencies.

The whole experience is carefully branded with personalized badges and micro-credentials. With a dashboard that tracks each competency area for students as they go, they are able to track their progress with a few taps on their phone. 

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“We stress service, engagement and leadership. But this aspect of our curriculum was not institutionalized before SOAR. It was more of an aspirational value that we help students become leaders and difference makers, but we didn’t link it to a curricular requirement. And that’s where SOAR comes in.

Dr. Peter Parolin, Dean, University of Wyoming Honors College

Now, colleges and schools across the university are participating in the SOAR program, pushing their students further towards professional and academic success. University of Wyoming’s College of Business integrated Suitable into their SOAR program in 2020, creating Poke’s Professionalism--a Business School-specific version of the SOAR program. The program was based on the Business School’s own competency framework, including Career Strategy, Professionalism, Experiences, and Electives. 

At the time of the program’s launch, the pandemic had begun forcing all learning online. With Suitable, students used the app to track activities like creating LinkedIn profiles, writing pitches, working towards internships, doing reflections and more. These activities were done completely online and recorded in Suitable, where they were added to each student’s experiential learning record--a comprehensive co-curricular transcript each student can share with potential employers and social media networks. 

The University of Wyoming’s Honors College also joined the SOAR program in 2020 as a way to push professional development beyond just an aspiration and make it into a tangible curriculum and graduation requirement. Honors students were able to connect with others in their cohorts, engaging in lectures and cultural events both on campus and in the city. Students were also encouraged to attend job and study abroad fairs, meet with colloquium professors and stay connected with advisors. The SOAR Honors College program tailors a badge of achievement per year, sticking with students from their freshman year all the way to graduation.

One of University of Wyoming’s proudest competencies is their values in community service. UW has been pushing students to think outside of themselves and into the community, but with no way to measure it. Suitable offered a way to do that. Now, with our partnership, UW has set up goals and activities for students to complete and track their community service as per their graduation requirements. 

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University of Wyoming also took their core competencies and used Suitable to brand them, tailored to its ethos, incorporating into the heart of the university. With this tailored branding, now students feel proud to be a part of the University Wyoming community, knowing they’re achieving their goals both for their university success and their communities. 

University of Wyoming wanted to increase their student engagement across campus, but specifically looking at engaging more freshmen. Suitable integration and mobile-first platform allows for freshmen to engage with UW right at their fingertips. In fact, the earlier the intervention, the better. As students start using our platform in their first year, they’re more likely to continue using it throughout their academic career until graduation. 

Take a Look Into the UW SOAR Achievement Dashboard

  • Badges and milestones approved by recruiters and employers
  • "Shared By" badges let you know which program's activities you are participating in, allowing multiple pathways to exist at once, seamlessly.
  • Scaffolded level designations delivered in-line so students and administrators can see growth within individual badges and milestones.
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Outcomes Achieved

UW found that Suitable was its best option for refurbishing the SOAR program because of our highly intuitive mobile-first design, making engagement easy for both students and administrators. With a personalized platform right on each student’s phone, tailored for them, they’re able to participate in experiential learning activities specifically selected to make them outstanding candidates for internships, fellowships, or jobs post-graduation. 

 

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Since beginning our partnership, University of Wyoming has seen tremendous growth in student engagement and career readiness. UW has seen tremendous growth from the fall semester of 2018 to the spring semester of 2020. The University of Wyoming launched the app mainly targeting underclassmen and incoming freshmen, planning to stay with them throughout their academic career from orientation to graduation. However, since launching the application, UW’s target goal of at least 85% of seniors engaging and participating with the app by 2022 is now expected to exceed those numbers.

Plans for the Future

After seeing their tremendous growth and success with the new SOAR program, UW will be continuing using Suitable’s services to run their platform, planning to eventually integrate the platform in their GenED programs. Each school and college within the university will also have their own pathways, integrating and engaging with students all across campus.

The College of Business is looking to increase their student engagement to 100% in the long-term, getting all of their students on board and being as prepared as they can be for their professional careers after graduation. The Honors College also hopes to have 100% of their students engaging with an achievement for each class level by the end of 2022. 

Since partnering with Suitable, UW has seen an incredible rate of student engagement. With more and more schools and colleges adding SOAR to their curriculums and setting goals to get all of their students achieving through the program, soon every UW student will be completing badges towards professional success.