By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Karen Denzler can put together a mean Microsoft PowerPoint. But creating a rounded Grand Canyon University student is more than feeding students facts and graphs.
Ultimately, it’s about powering their careers.
The virologist, whose research at GCU involves screening and analyzing desert botanicals for antibacterial activity, encourages her students to join any of the undergraduate research teams that are part of the University’s Research and Design Program. A few of those teams work out of the laboratory she helms alongside Drs. Daisy Savarirajan and Ramesh Vellupillaimani called the Antimicrobial Discovery Lab.
It’s where she helps students sharpen their lab skills, which just might help them land a job in industry. The program also helps them practice their oral presentation skills, since they often speak about their findings to industry professionals and the campus community.
“Being able to communicate the details of their research project can help students during an interview,” Denzler said. But more importantly, because of the Research and Design Program, “I've seen a number of students get jobs in the field, land summer internships and gain admittance to graduate schools — and that’s SO rewarding to see.”
Denzler is among 13 educators recognized by the University’s Strategic Employer Initiatives & Internships department as Faculty Career Advisors of the Year.
SEI Executive Director Haley Fagerlie and each of the college’s deans spearheaded the launch of the awards in 2020-21 with the support of Provost Dr. Hank Radda and Student Success Vice President Dr. Joe Veres.
“GCU has an intentional commitment to the career success of our students,” said Aysha Bell, SEI Director of Employer Relations & Recruitment Services. “One initiative that has grown from the University’s collective efforts to support the professional achievement of our students is the annual recognition of key faculty and staff who continually champion the career success of their students.”
Faculty such as Troy Pottgen in the College of Arts and Media, who teaches copywriting. He is the founder and director of Narwahl Stories, which has focused on marketing campaigns, web content, TV commercials and documentary-style storytelling for companies such as MGM Resorts International, Blimpie and OneAZ Credit Union.
College of Arts and Media Dean Dr. Craig Detweiler said Pottgen uses Arizona brands as content for students’ assignments and brings the client into the process alongside his students.
“These client interactions have resulted in job interviews and internships for over a dozen GCU students,” Detweiler said.
The college’s other Faculty Career Advisor of the Year, Frank Dubuy, taught music for years in Chandler’s public schools and, for GCU, trains and connects music education majors to teaching jobs.
Detweiler said faculty such as Dubuy and Pottgen bridge the gap between the classroom and the marketplace and are part of the reason why GCU's “tech-savvy Arts and Media grads are getting hired straight out of school to do design work for the Phoenix Suns, photography for international ad agencies and to teach in burgeoning high schools still being built.”
Another student career champion, Alan Klibanoff of the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB), is so in touch with the finance and banking industry and has so many personal career contacts that he is able to easily connect students to industry. He is always sharing with students insight into the field, such as the culture at various companies, and helps them navigate the job offers they get.
CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb said Klibanoff spends a lot of time helping prepare students for the Securities Industry Essentials Exam, which assesses a candidate’s basic knowledge of the securities industry and is one of the first steps to becoming a licensed professional in that field. “He is so committed,” Gibb said.
CCOB’s other Faculty Career Advisor of the Year, Canyon Ventures Director Robert Vera, was recognized for his work with startups and connecting students to those startups at the University’s student-centric business incubation center and at businesses elsewhere.
“He is all in,” Gibb said. “He shares his faith and networks for students.”
The same can be said for the rest of the educators who were named Faculty Career Advisors of the Year: They, too, are all in when it comes to helping students launch their careers.
The 13 awardees were nominated by their college leadership, Bell said, for their “dedication, inspiration, mentoring, support and investment in helping students navigate their path and obtain opportunities for their future careers.”
Receiving the award were:
GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.