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Career Services

ReimagineU: Equitable Access for All

On Wednesday October 30th, our San Francisco office welcomed Dr. Farouk Dey for an afternoon conversation with our team. Dr. […]

8 min read

On Wednesday October 30th, our San Francisco office welcomed Dr. Farouk Dey for an afternoon conversation with our team. Dr. Dey, Vice Provost for Integrative Learning and Life Design at Johns Hopkins University, has been a friend and thought leader for PeopleGrove since his days as Dean and Vice Provost at Stanford University. In fact, he originally helped guide much of the work that led to Stanford being one of the first PeopleGrove partners.

This year, Dr. Dey gave a keynote at our PeopleGrove Innovators Conference on July 16th titled ReimagineU. He also joined us at a number of our Summer Summits across the U.S. to speak on the future of work and higher education’s role in that future. During his visit to our office, we revisited many of those topics and learned more about Dr. Dey’s work at Johns Hopkins. Specifically, he shared some important trends in higher education that leaders need to think about in transforming the student and alumni experience.

“Career Planning is Out, Life Design is In”

Dr. Dey has been writing and speaking about this for years.

Typically, college students are asked some version of the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question throughout their time at a college or university. This question actually presupposes that the educational journey has a specific destination and that transaction between student and institution ends at graduation. Thus, career services invests considerable time and effort to ensure that a student has a first destination upon graduation.

Dr. Dey asked our team to raise their hand if they were in a job or profession that they planned on in college. As you can imagine, not a single hand was raised. The career path of today’s workforce is much like a game of Chutes and Ladders. With millennials switching jobs every one to three years and Gen Z likely to be job switchers at an even higher rate, higher education institutions should focus on preparing students for those moves rather than “placing” them in a job.

Dr. Dey argues that it starts by asking students the right questions. Instead of trying to prompt them to plan their career, focus on what has motivated a student. Ask “What inspired you today?” and push students towards understanding why they were inspired. From there ask, “What audacious move are you going to make?” based on that inspiration.


The key is being able to provide students access to opportunities to discover this inspiration and an understanding of possible audacious moves they can make. For this, Dr. Dey looks outside the traditional college classroom and curriculum to two main things: (1) mentoring and connections and (2) immersive experiences.

Mentoring and connections are key to this approach. By providing students access to experts in their fields, institutions can offer students exploration opportunities to facilitate those moments of inspiration. Dr. Dey wants mentoring to be so central to the educational experience that “Who was your mentor?” should be the first question that fellow Hopkins graduates ask each other when meeting.

Immersive experiences are the second way that students can find inspiration. These experiences include study abroad, internships, part-time jobs, student organizations, and other learning opportunities outside the classroom. Their potential to provide this inspiration is often untapped because students approach them with a lack of purpose. If institutions can help students look at these traditional college experiences as learning opportunities rather than just enjoyable endeavors, then their potential to inspire is limitless.

The Rise of the Machines…and the “Success Skills”

At this point, job automation and AI in the workplace has almost been overreported. Of course, those reports range as to how fast that automation will occur, but a recent McKinsey team suggested six out of 10 jobs are made up of 30% or more tasks that can be automated. The MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab just last week said that AI is likely to affect 100% of jobs.

As these reports consider the future of work, others think about the future of workers. With more and more automated tasks, employees will need to be adept at the things that machines can’t do — namely be human. Soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, complex problem solving, and emotional intelligence are among the top 10 skills that the World Economic Forum has listed as necessary to success in the 2020 workforce.

Rebranded as “success skills” by Dr. Dey, these attributes have to be fostered and taught by institutions looking to create a sense of fulfillment among their students and alumni. Once again, mentoring/connections and immersive experiences are how it’s being approached at Johns Hopkins. A mentor can shine light on how those skills are transferable to the workplace while an internship or job experience can provide hands on training when it comes to their implementation.

Again, it’s important to ensure students approach their opportunities armed with the knowledge of what can come out of it. Having a sense of purpose is critical to ensuring students walk away with the success skills that will help them stand out in the age of the machines.

It Has to be Available to ALL

Perhaps the most critical trend that Dr. Dey shared with us is the challenge of social mobility across higher education. Education has always been the key way that social mobility has taken place, and it remains a moral imperative for institutions to do everything in their power to provide that opportunity to students. It is also something that more and more observers are beginning to measure in higher ed, including the US News & World Report who are ranking institutions on social mobility.

The challenge right now is that the services that point students towards the mentorship and immersive experiences at the center of Dr. Dey’s model, and then subsequently the opportunities themselves, are not available to all students. Those who come to an institution with resources that exceed their peers are more likely to take advantage of mentors, connections, and transformational experiences that help students find inspiration and build their success skills. At the 2019 Innovators Conference, Dr. Dey challenged higher education to consider the things that we are doing that are not available to 100% of students and put an end to those activities. Specifically citing the clinical model of career counseling, he asked attendees to really consider if 1-on-1 appointments are accessible to all students. Particularly since NACE estimates that on average there are more than 2,900 students per career center staff member.

To ensure access for all students, Dr. Dey is working to integrate mentoring and immersive experiences into the curriculum at Hopkins. As simple as it may sound, every student needs to go to class. So what better place could there be?! Giving access to (or even requiring) a mentor, an internship, a case study, a part-time job, or a study abroad program through the coursework ensures that students are aware of these important opportunities.

Additionally, leveraging technology to give students access to networking resources and mentors wherever and whenever they need it is crucial to ensuring social mobility. A personalized approach can surface relevant resources for students and ensure that they are able to access a mentor that matches their interests. Through a platform like PeopleGrove, students have access to career readiness tools that allows them to explore, prototype, and ultimately determine what path they would like to pursue.

It Doesn’t End at Graduation

In the end, the goal of this innovation is student fulfillment. A student who has approached their academic career with purpose, learned from the university community and mentors, and immersed themselves in transformational experiences will leave their college or university feeling confident that they have been prepared for the twists and turns of the job market.

But the work of the institution in the life of a student is never complete. As a parting thought, Dr. Dey noted the paradigm shift occurring in the alumni space. It is now being acknowledged that the transaction between student and institution no longer ends at graduation. Alumni are looking to their alma mater to continue to provide learning and career support as the life design journey continues.

It is here where PeopleGrove can play a crucial role in that journey. Access to a networking community of life-long learners can continue to provide a method of engagement for alumni and gives institutions a way to maintain loyalty. Ultimately, the investment that alumni offices make in supporting the continued fulfillment of their graduates will not only lead to increased satisfaction, but also improved philanthropic outcomes.

Insights and innovation are what drive us here at PeopleGrove. It was wonderful to revisit the important work that Dr. Dey is doing at Johns Hopkins and hear how it is impacting the students that he serves. To echo another final thought he shared with us, this type of change and innovation will take all of us involved in higher education. Not only those serving students on campuses but colleagues across the spectrum — from policy to technology. Here at PeopleGrove, we are proud to partner with Dr. Dey and Johns Hopkins on this audacious vision.

Looking to bring this model to your campus? Learn more in Dr. Dey’s most recent work published today!