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Karley Clayton, Melissa Cooper, and Keely Floyd, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Clayton, Cooper, Floyd.jpgAcademic and Career Development (ACD) at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is an integrated office of academic advisors and career consultants who collaborate to support holistic student development. During the summer, the staff of ACD works closely with other IUPUI offices to offer two-day orientation programs for incoming first-year students. Academic planning is the major focus of these orientation sessions, and in this time of Generation Z support systems, students often are not the only campus visitors during orientation. Many bring guests, including parents, guardians, older siblings, and trusted friends, to help them navigate their two days on campus.

On the second day of orientation, while students are engaged with advisors in registration rooms, the Friends & Family Program gives students’ guests a productive way to be engaged without looking over the shoulder of the student and their advisor during the course registration process. Originally offered in Summer 2017, the 40-minute session discusses common myths regarding career development, includes facts about the current employment market, walks guests through the career exploration process at IUPUI, and helps the audience learn about resources to share with their students.

The Friends & Family Program enhances the orientation experience for students, their guests, and orientation staff in many ways and provides career consultants with a valuable connection during an already-crowded orientation schedule.

Leverage Generation Z Supporters’ Need to be Helpful

The role of parents and guardians has evolved from occasional guest or auditor at orientation to being a “key stakeholder” in their student’s college and orientation experience (Merriman, 2006, p. 12).  With the rising costs of college, parents and guardians are often forced to be investors—nearly 69% are contributing to the cost of their student’s degree (Sallie Mae, 2014, p. 9). Thus, advisors are charged with maintaining a fine balance between keeping these stakeholders involved in orientation while empowering students to begin gaining autonomy.

Aside from financial considerations, parents and guardians of Generation Z (born 1995–2005) are more involved in their child’s life than in previous generations (Seemiller & Grace, 2016). Approximately 67% of Generation Z students name their parents as their main role models, and nearly 50% state they seek their parent’s advice first for important life decisions—including major and career exploration. Likewise, they are in constant communication; the average parent communicates with their student approximately thirteen times a week through phone calls, texts, social media, and other channels (Ramsey, Oberhauser, & Gentzler, 2016). When a student is considering changing their major or reconsidering their career plan, their parents or guardians—not their academic or career advisor—are likely to be the first person to whom they disclose this information. Therefore, equipping parents and guardians with career development resources is an excellent use of time during orientation.

Provide Early Intervention for Students Questioning Majors

Students who participate in a career intervention before or during their first year of college have significantly increased one-year retention rates and four-year graduation rates (Clayton, Wessel, McAtee, & Knight, 2018). This research can be particularly important at an urban-serving institution like IUPUI, as many students arrive on campus with little knowledge of, or exposure to, professional fields. A majority of incoming IUPUI students attending orientation pre-select the most common majors: nursing, engineering, business, etc. Very few enter with majors like cytotechnology, philanthropic studies, medical humanities, or sustainable policy management (to name a few), evidence that they have done little career research prior to their major selection. Research confirms that if their original choice of major turns out to be a poor fit, the student’s ability to persevere through their degree plan is often impacted.

If can be difficult, however, to convince incoming students of the importance of exploring other options. That is why the first slides in the Friends & Family Program give guests data about the importance of career exploration. Guests learn that, according to research conducted loosely by several organizations, today’s professionals will change professional roles as many as 10–15 times (Doyle, 2018). They learn that in a 2013 study conducted by ACT administrators, 80% of college test-takers reported having declared a college major, though only 36% of them chose a major in line with their interests (Rehling, 2015). Session attendees learn their students will spend an average of 85,000 hours working during their lifetime (Sitkus, 2017), making it important to choose majors in line with their interests. They also learn that, according to research by Angela Duckworth, only 13% of Americans are “engaged” in their work (Duckworth, 2016, p. 98).

Guests also spend time debunking the following career development myths:

  • There is only one perfect major/career for every person.
  • A student’s major will automatically guide them to a career.
  • Career decisions are lifelong decisions.
  • Liberal arts, humanities, and sciences are not marketable majors.
  • Career decisions should be made based on the current job market.
  • Students should know what they are passionate about before declaring a major.

When guests are able to achieve a deeper understanding of the choices that their students will face when it comes to selecting a major and career path, they will be better equipped to support their students through those difficult moments. After attending the Friends & Family Program, they are armed with information and resources to help their student more proactively seek the assistance that is available to them.

Relieve Over-Crowded Registration Rooms

In previous summers, academic advisors have conducted group advising sessions in classrooms spaces packed to capacity with students and their guests. These overcrowded spaces often left students and staff strained by loud volumes, extensive back-and-forths between students and guests, and standing-room-only conditions. After working through those circumstances during the two-month orientation season, advisors began to grow fatigued.  

At the same time, the career consultants had long been lobbying to include career programming during orientation but had not been successful in having the programming included in the students’ itinerary. Enter the Friends & Family Program, which takes place during the group registration session and helps clear much of the congestion of the registration spaces. Attendance at the program is not officially required, but guests are automatically directed to the session by orientation leaders while their students are guided toward their registration classrooms. While students are typing away on laptop computers and negotiating daily schedules, their guests are learning about the importance of career development and gathering details about resources, events, and partnerships that are available as supports. The guests then become partners and advocates for student retention and are better-equipped to support their student through the important career exploration process.  

Program Impact

In 2018, over 1,050 people attended the Family & Friends Program, and 99.5% of program attendees stated that the information presented in the program was relevant to them as a parent, guardian, or supporter. One attendee declared that “this program answered questions I didn’t even know I had,” and shared that it assisted her in gaining the tools to talk about major and career exploration with her student.  Another guest said the presentation “gave me confidence that there are a lot of resources and support available to my student.” Many surveys commented that the Family & Friends Program should be more prominently placed in the orientation schedule, since the information was so relevant to their student. 

Academic and Career Development at IUPUI practices an integrated model of advising, built on the belief that conversations about academic coursework and career outcomes should take place simultaneously. One of the most important outcomes of the Family & Friends Program is that it reinforces the unified efforts of academic and career advising to students, orientation guests, and offices across campus. The results of this program provide evidence that academic advisors and career development professionals can collaborate to provide important and timely information to guests, while also creating a streamlined approach to advising and registration during orientation. A program like Family & Friends is a way for career development to be shared at orientation, an opportunity to build stronger partnerships, and an effective way to redirect and give the Generation Z helicopter guests a landing pad during the registration process.

Karley Clayton
Career Consultant, Academic and Career Development
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
[email protected]

Melissa Cooper
Senior Career Consultant, Academic and Career Development
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
[email protected]

Keely Floyd
Career Consultant, Academic and Career Development
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
[email protected]


Clayton, K., Wessel, R., McAtee, J., & Knight, W. (2018). KEY Careers: Increasing retention and graduation rates with career interventions. Journal of Career Development. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845318763972

Doyle, A. (2018). How often do people change jobs? Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-often-do-people-change-jobs-2060467

Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. New York, NY: Scribner/Simon & Schuster.

Merriman, L (2006). Best practices for managing parent concerns: A mixed methods study of student affairs practice at doctoral research institutions (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of California, Los Angeles.

Ramsey, M. A., Oberhauser, A. M., & Gentzler, A. L. (2016). College students’ use of communication technology with parents: Influences of distance, gender, and social presence. The Psychology of Social Networking, 10(10), doi: 10.1089/cyber.2012.0534

Rehling, N. (2015). Selecting a college major. Retrieved from https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/Choice-of-College-Majors.pdf

Sallie Mae, Inc. (2014). How America pays for college, 2014: Sallie Mae's national study of college students and parents. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED560123

Seemiller, C. & Grace, M. (2016). Generation Z goes to college. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Sitkus, C. (2017). ⅓ of your life is spent at work. Retrieved from http://www.gettysburg.edu/news_events/press_release_detail.dot?id=79db7b34-630c-4f49-ad32-4ab9ea48e72b

Cite this article using APA style as: Clayton, K., Cooper, M., & Floyd, K. (2019, March). A landing pad for helicopter guests: The friends & family program at IUPUI. Academic Advising Today, 42(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Posted in: 2019 March 42:1


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