'Professional Humans': AJCU Career Service Leaders Explore Jesuit Education and the Future of Work

By Jim Dickinson, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President for Career Services at Loyola University Maryland

Andrea Mersmann, Matthew Brink, Jessenia Morales & Kathryn Jackson (photo by Jim Connon)

Andrea Mersmann, Matthew Brink, Jessenia Morales & Kathryn Jackson (photo by Jim Connon)

On Wednesday, June 5, members of the AJCU Career Service Leaders affinity group gathered at the 2019 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conference in Orlando, FL. The AJCU Career Service Leaders hosted a panel discussion and networking reception for guests, exploring the theme of Professional Humans: Jesuit Education and the Future of Work.

The panel was moderated by Kathryn Jackson, director of career services at Loyola University Chicago, and included three speakers with Jesuit affiliations:

  • Andrea Mersmann, Senior Assistant Director of Career Development at Xavier University

  • Jessenia Morales, Group Talent Manager at Enterprise Holdings and Fairfield University alumna

  • Matthew Brink, Assistant Executive Director of Programs and Services for NACE and former Director of the Career Development Center at Saint Joseph’s University

Conversation focused on the topic of interpersonal or “human skills” for career success and their increasing importance as workplace technology evolves. Throughout the panel discussion, direct connections were made between the unique values of Jesuit education and the development of “human skills.” Four main themes were addressed:

On the most critical “human skills” above all others:
The panelists explained that in many cases, employers emphasize these skills even more than technical skills. For example: employees who are able to think critically and make ethical decisions tend to show good judgment in the workplace. And among the many differentiators of Jesuit education, developing intercultural fluency was highlighted as an incredible value in our increasingly diverse and globally-connected workplaces.

Jim Dickinson, Ph.D. introduces the panel of speakers (photo by Jim Connon)

Jim Dickinson, Ph.D. introduces the panel of speakers (photo by Jim Connon)

On the way that human skills can go hand-in-hand with technical skills to produce superior results:
Examples from a variety of industries emphasized how advanced technology in the hands of caring, communicative professionals is of critical value. Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s business is primarily with people who have been in car accidents, more so than those renting cars for vacation or business travel. Enterprise recently switched from using computers behind large desk counters to iPads for customer check-in. This has allowed employees with strong communication skills to express empathy and be able to have more natural conversations with customers in stressful situations. Additional examples were shared around the strength of data analysts who can also tell compelling stories, and accountants who can see things from their clients’ perspectives. The latter skill is developed at Xavier University (and at other Jesuit schools) through student participation in programs like the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

On partnerships between colleges and employers to develop human skills for the next generation:
Panelists emphasized creative ideas that merge expertise from academic and corporate partners to create new solutions that benefit students. This requires an openness to collaborate and flexibility to shape programs that address the interests and needs of all institutions involved. One example highlighted was the Maguire Academy of Insurance and Risk Management at Saint Joseph’s University, which provides scholarships, access to internships and experiential learning. This was formed in collaboration between Saint Joseph’s Haub School of Business and prominent alumni in the insurance industry, who provide fundraising support and feedback to faculty. Another example was a partnership between Enterprise and a university, through which professors and female executives worked together to develop a Female Leadership Program to inspire and develop the next generation of leaders.

On the unique ways that Jesuit alumni stand out in today’s workplaces:
The way that Jesuit institutions provide guidance and opportunities for reflection is transformative for emerging professionals. Developing this skill allows our graduates to increase their awareness of themselves and those around them. Examples were shared of students inspired by service trips to begin new programs or nonprofit organizations to serve individuals of great need throughout the world. And the close personal attention of faculty and administrators was described as a difference-maker in preparing first-generation students at Jesuit schools for life after graduation. In short, Jesuit schools’ shared focus on cura personalis can impact different students in different ways, but the common result is seen in graduates who possess a confident understanding of themselves and a dedication to creative, hard work in the service of others.

The panel concluded with additional conversation and networking in small groups. The AJCU Career Service Leaders look forward to building upon this event for future gatherings. To learn more, please visit ajcunet.edu/career-service-leaders.