By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Students have come to know that Eduardo Borquez, like other Grand Canyon University faculty members, will share more than just knowledge with them.
He will show them how to turn that knowledge into on-the-job know-how. It’s a “know”-brainer.
“All the time,” said the Professor of Management, Strategy and Entrepreneurship in the Colangelo College of Business. “That is non-negotiable for me. I’m not the kind of professor who takes the class through the textbook and just regurgitates it or takes a PowerPoint slide and just reads it.
“Our students demand more from us, and what they want is, ‘How does that one concept you’re teaching transfer to skills and experience?’ That’s why all my examples are job-focused and career-focused.
“If all we do is teach so that students can earn a degree, then we are de-servicing them. A degree is supposed to open doors, and we’re teaching them how to open those doors and leverage what they’re learning in the classroom.”
That attitude demonstrates why Borquez was one of 12 faculty members named 2019-20 Faculty Career Advisors of the Year by GCU’s Strategic Employer Initiatives and Internships (SEI). The others:
- Colangelo College of Business: Dr. Kelly Damron
- College of Education: Dr. Jim Mostofo
- College of Fine Arts and Production: William Symington, Sheila Schumacher
- College of Humanities and Social Sciences: Denise Krupp
- College of Nursing and Health Care Professions: Jerry Perkins, Brandon Warner
- College of Science, Engineering and Technology: Greg Bullock, Mark Reha
- College of Theology: Dr. Amanda Jenkins, Margaret Koontz
It’s part of SEI’s plan to make sure the available resources are apparent to students, faculty members and employers.
“We all know we have great students. We all know they’re going places,” said Haley Fagerlie, SEI’s Executive Director. “We're just trying to connect the dots and support their journey in getting there.”
The journey has changed dramatically in the last 11 months. Before the pandemic, assimilating into the office culture was a key component in starting any new job. Now?
“Students may start their first day at a company never entering the building of their work,” Fagerlie said. “How do you convey that to students and make sure they are equipped to be successful? Some students are doing great if they’re self-directed, can find the right mentor and have engaged in professional development, but the ones who don’t might be challenged.
“This is why we want to recognize key faculty who work so closely with students on their career journey and highly encourage students to take advantage of all the support offered to them so they are ready.”
SEI already had a lot going on when GCU Magazine published this story last April, but it has continued to expand its offerings during the pandemic:
- At the time, employers talked with students through a chat feature. Now it’s a video.
- Virtual career fairs are a regular occurrence.
- SEI partnered with Faculty Training and Development to create on-demand training in the Faculty Resource Center (FRC) dedicated to helping faculty understand the different areas of support available to students.
The Academic and Career Excellence Center (ACE) has drop-in hours in which students can swing by to talk with an advisor virtually via the Career Connections website.
It’s all about being accessible to anyone with a question – both inside and outside the University.
“One of the things we’ve heard from employers is that you don’t get caught in a phone loop when you reach out to GCU,” said Aysha Bell, SEI’s Director of Employer Relations and Recruitment Services. “We have a great team of individuals who are there to help and do a wonderful job of assisting companies.”
Employers also get to talk to students directly in another way. Case in point: Zach Johnston, Director of West Accounts for Phoenix-based Knight Transportation, has spoken to business classes and said, “All of the experiences have been top-notch. I feel like all of the administrators on campus have been super open and excited to have us in the classroom.”
Knight Transportation gave two GCU business students, Mason Pearson and Wendy Zhang, valuable experience by having them work with three Knight teams – refrigerated, regional accounts and national accounts – for more than two months during their time as undergrads.
They focused on driver efficiencies, examined the outlook of larger customers and analyzed financials and growth plans. Here's where it led after they graduated last year: Pearson was an account manager intern for Knight, and Zhang is an advisor in training at Rayhons Financial Solutions in Tempe.
“It was a crash course,” said Johnston, who graduated from GCU with a business management degree. “They learned some of the roles and responsibilities and spent time shadowing different folks on the team.”
That embedded experience shows the depth of the GCU faculty’s determination to give students an entry point into a career.
It's the same kind of determination shared by faculty member Denise Krupp, whose attitude shows why she also won an SEI award.
“I’ll support my students in whatever I can to have them be successful because I believe in them,” said the College of Humanities and Social Sciences instructor and counselor specializing in addiction and substance abuse. “I work really hard to not just get them trained in the classroom but get them out with opportunities out in the field while they’re students.”
Those opportunities have included leading peer support groups at local schools, including Alhambra High School down the street from GCU, and for sex-trafficking victims at the Phoenix Dream Center.
“It helps decrease some of that fear factor,” Krupp said. “I’m really kind of pushy with them in the beginning. I say, ‘You’ve just got to get out there and do it.’ They’re terrified when they go out to the Dream Center or wherever, and then they begin to see that it’s exactly what they’ve been learning in the classroom and they’re not so afraid. I think it’s a big confidence booster.
“My hope is that when they’re in their interviews, the people interviewing them really see that in them. It’s not something in theory or something they’ve seen on TV. In their heads, it’s, ‘I can do this and I can be successful.’”
The fear factor is real. One of the events during the recent Career Awareness Week, sponsored by Academic and Career Excellence, featured a panel of five recent alumni talking about their experiences since graduating.
At the end, the panelists were asked to sum up their best piece of advice in 10 or fewer words. The most telling comment was by Stephen Parisi, a 2019 English for secondary education graduate who now teaches in Imagine Schools at Cortez Park.
“You don’t have to do everything by (age) 22,” he told the students who were listening via Zoom. “Chill.”
What faculty members do while students are still at GCU has a cool effect.
“Many of them have a perception of, ‘Hey, time is ticking and I have to make sure I hit a milestone or I hit an age and I need to be at a certain place,’” Borquez said. “I tell them that this is not a competition. This is a race, but this is your race – no one else’s race.
“So if you see someone else who reached that sooner than you, congratulate them. If it’s taking you longer, you’ll eventually get there. And if you got there sooner with someone else, share what you did so they can get there as well.
“When they hear that from me, I’ve seen how the pressure just falls off from them, and now they’re able to get that experience and get that skill set.”
The opportunities are there. It’s just a matter of being in the know.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].