Priorities: Learning and Work​

Eastern Connecticut State University

Educating students for work has grown increasingly important to our own work at Bringing Theory to Practice. Our approach is focused less on the demands of the labor market — so often the focus of national conversation — than on the aspirations of students and the values of BT2P. Nearly all undergraduates want college to prepare them for satisfying work that will afford them security, mobility, and purpose. For some, that means choosing a single career path; for others, multiple, evolving jobs; for still others, a life in which the most significant work (for instance, parenting or caretaking) is unwaged. For many graduates, secure and satisfying work will not be consistently available. But for all students, we believe, exploring and preparing for work is a core purpose of college, essential to the personal autonomy and social responsibility that higher education aims to provide.

The work-oriented projects supported by BT2P — even in professional and vocational programs — often connect training or career exploration with other educational goals. They’ve focused on such issues as the relationship between professional work and civic engagement, the integration of liberal learning and practical training, and work as an aspect of personal self-authoring. Here are links to several innovative examples.

  • Bates College’s Purposeful Work initiative incorporates internships, career exploration, and vocational reflection across its liberal arts curriculum and co-curriculum.
  • Bethel University redesigned its nursing curriculum to require internships with local agencies and community partners and reflection on nursing as a civic profession.
  • Chattanooga State Community College redesigned its first-year student success course around both service learning and workplace internships, braiding together the development of civic agency with job-related soft skills.

BT2P publications have also explored the connections work with integrative and experiential learning, well-being, and community engagement.  Here are some important readings.