GCU connections help solve job puzzle for students
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Kelsey Lamphier heard a welcome question during a recent job interview.
“What is your association with GCU?”
The question, she said, came from Scottsdale Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell, who is on Grand Canyon University’s Public Administration advisory board.
Lamphier earned her master’s degree from GCU in Public Administration with an Emphasis in Government and Policy in 2018.
Connections never hurt.
She got the job as a management associate in the Scottsdale City Manager’s Office and started a few weeks ago. At minimum, she said, her GCU ties helped her land an interview.
Connecting students to internships and jobs is one of the functions of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences four advisory boards, one of which is Public Administration.
Advisory boards are made up of industry professionals who meet with University leadership and faculty in several disciplines within each college.
“Often, they are our students’ first point of contact for the professional job market,” CHSS Dean Dr. Sherman Elliott said.
“When we invite someone to the advisory board, ahead of time we ask them: ‘Are you comfortable taking on our students as interns and, if you are hiring, interviewing them?’ That is kind of what we need them to be. They are cheerleaders for GCU.”
Advisory boards serve another important role. They keep faculty up to date on industry changes and standards and what employers are looking for in graduates.
“Our faculty certainly know their stuff, but we want to know from the people hiring our graduates what skills and aspects of the trade you want them to know before graduation,” Elliott said.
The boards help faculty shape their curriculum.
One thing GCU instructor Evelyn Racette picked up while sitting in on Public Administration advisory board meetings is the desire for employees who understand the necessary malleability in public service to meet the often shifting needs of the public.
“That is what the board brings to the table, a discussion that allows us to make sure our leaders are responsive to the public,” Racette said. “The biggest benefit is making sure we are relevant, and students are ready and prepared for the next step. They keep us grounded in the practice of public administration.”
Board members are eager for a ready supply of GCU students for internships and jobs.
Lamphier coupled her real-world experience in economic development with academic knowledge from GCU.
“Now I can tie those two together in Scottsdale. I got an idea of leadership systems so I can adapt and lead others in the organization because I am more well suited for it now,” said Lamphier, who leads sustainability programs and other special projects, such as new technology for parking solutions.
The CHSS advisory boards, which also include Communications and Professional Writing, Social Work, and Psychology and Counseling, are filled with more than 40 professionals.
The boards meet twice a year and during the pandemic found that Zoom meetings actually work better to fit everyone’s schedule. Occasionally, the group takes a field trip to the participating organizations’ worksites.
“They have a bragging opportunity,” Sherman said. “They talk about who their clients are and the good work they do, and we ask them for a tour and to let us be a cheerleader for them.”
The Psychology and Counseling advisory board has led to a fruitful connection with Southwest Behavioral & Health Services and its nearly 1,000 employees, who make it one of the largest behavioral health organizations in Arizona.
President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Sheets is a GCU graduate and sits on the advisory board.
Book learning is great, but teaching students what happens in real life is more difficult, he said. That’s where the board helps mold programming that remains relevant to the integrated health care systems of today.
Examples include sharing the importance of learning proper clinical documentation and understanding the complex Medicaid system.
“It makes a huge difference in how they are prepared for success,” Sheets said.
He also looks to GCU for the quality of its students. Five students recently completed internships at Southwest, and two more are currently serving one. Numerous GCU grads also are employees.
“Specific to GCU, I’ve seen a very unique skillset where they are being taught by people who have relationships in the field or are adjuncts who are in the field and have real-life experience,” Sheets said.
“What I have seen in common with GCU students is they are not just taught out of textbooks but what real-life work experience would look like and feel like. They come in with suggestions on how we can do better. They are ready to challenge the thought process in healthy ways.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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