NIU today | New UNIV 301 course helps students on the path to success

A new course that debuted this fall to help students prepare for internships and jobs after graduation is off to a good start.

Nearly 200 students registered this semester at youNIV 301: Braven Leadership and Career Accelerator, an optional 3-credit online course taught by leadership coaches currently working in a variety of industries. Students are grouped into small cohorts with the same Leadership Coach throughout the semester. These mentors provide students with valuable feedback and ideas and help them plan for their future.

Although the course is just under three months old and spring 2023 enrollment is underway, initial feedback from students has been positive. Sophomore Jesika Pabello is a sophomore computer science student who says the connections she’s made with the students and her leadership coach have been invaluable.

“The people in my cohort are amazing and are always engaged during our learning labs,” she says. “My leadership coach helped me provide feedback for my resume and also stayed out of class hours to help me when I or someone in my cohort is struggling.”

The class is part of a five-year partnership signed in 2022 between NIU and Braven Inc., to help students develop a solid foundation of skills, networks, experience, and confidence to land an internship while at NIU or a job after graduation. Founded in 2013, Braven is a Chicago-based nonprofit that works with underrepresented youth to help them make a strong transition from college to first job and higher education.

Support continues after students complete the course throughout their time at NIU. Coaches leading current NIU cohorts include professionals from Allstate, CIBC, Cambridge Computer, LinkedIn, Medline, Nike, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Rockwell Automation, Salesforce, TJX Companies and ‘others.

Nichole Knutson, associate vice provost for student success, explains that UNIV 301 provides students with a guided path to gain a variety of skills and experiences while working toward academic and professional goals.

“The course helps students increase their self-confidence, gain integrative learning experiences and build a strong professional network,” she says. “We are committed to providing meaningful and strategic opportunities for students inside and outside the classroom. These intentional experiences encourage active learning, curiosity and creativity.

Although any student of any major can enroll, the course is ideally designed for sophomores so they can receive continued support from Braven after completing UNIV 301. NIU is the one of six Braven partner universities located in the Midwest and East. and the west coasts.

UNIV 301 offers a variety of student benefits, including:

  • Small class size. Students team up with 5-8 other Huskies from various disciplines, allowing them to connect with peers and bond outside of their field of study.
  • Fully online and once a week. Students meet their mentor and teammates once a week online. They can register for a course that meets on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Career exploration and preparation. Students who know what they want to do after graduation will learn the steps to get there. Uncertain students will be able to explore what is possible. Additionally, students will develop a professional portfolio, CV and LinkedIn profile and learn key interview skills.
  • Hands-on learning with leading companies. Students will work with their teammates on creating solutions for real businesses and real customers. Braven has an extensive network of participating businesses in the Chicago area and across the country.
  • Long-lasting support. Once students complete the Braven Accelerator course, they are paired with a mentor to support them through their academic and professional career planning.

“We hope our students will use this time and the skills learned at UNIV 301 to secure internships, participate in undergraduate research, expand their professional network, attend job fairs and meet with advisors from guidance,” says Knutson. “Ultimately, we hope our students feel more confident in themselves as they graduate from NIU and go on to graduate school or enter the workforce.”

Jaylah Townsend studies audio-visual communications and says the support within the cohort has helped her manage the workload.

“The most surprising part is the hands-on feel throughout the class and we feel connected even though it’s virtual,” she says. “I would recommend this course to other students. This motivates you to refine your resume and profile to be as professional as possible.

Students stay in cohorts throughout the semester, then present a capstone project as a group at the end of the semester. This semester, the group will pitch marketing and promotional ideas to the Chicago Bulls for the team’s Jan. deck.

“In today’s workforce, we are likely to work in environments that are interdisciplinary in nature,” Knutson says. “The course encourages integrative research and multidisciplinary approaches to problem solving, communication, operations, and teamwork to solve a problem.”

You can learn more here: UNIV 301: Courageous Leadership and Career Accelerator

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