Alleged Cancellation of Chapman’s Career Readiness Programs

Photo of the Office of Career and Professional Development. Photo by Katie Whitman

Chapman students are disheartened over the apparent cancellation of the ATLAS, Compass, and Summit career readiness programs offered by the Career Development Center.

“I’m upset because Chapman likes to say it’s a small university that encourages personalized attention but the truth is this place operates like a business which puts big numbers before the individual student it says it serves,” Hailey Shannon, a creative writing major who is a part of the Compass program said.

Sahzeah Babylon, a career educator at the Center who runs ATLAS, a program that caters to undeclared students, and Compass, which helps transfer students was told about the cancellation of the programs during a discussion with a superior.

The programs are being canceled due to low attendance, Babylon said. Babylon said the administration plans to replace the three customized programs with a single, more generalized program. This is the last semester for the specialized programs, which cater to students with specific challenges that they address through a combination of group instruction and labor-intensive, personalized coaching.

It is standard practice for Chapman’s Office of Career and Professional Development to evaluate all of its programs and services at the end of each semester, and the Compass, ATLAS, Summit and Passport programs are among those being reviewed, Jo Etta Bandy, the executive director of the Career and Professional Development Center said via email.

“In the spirit of continuous improvement, we will always have a focus on evolving our work in order to provide the maximum benefit to our students,” Bandy said via email. “No decisions have been relative to any of our programs at this point in time.”

Babylon also runs a program called Passport which assists international students with career development. The Passport program will not be canceled, according to Babylon but she is unsure about what the program will look like.

Hailey Shannon and Sahzeah Babylon at the last Passport session where Babylon facilitated a conversation about culture shock. Photo courtesy of Hailey Shannon

Adrianna Davies, the student assistant for the Career and Professional Development Center, said she was not aware that the programs were being axed. However, “I know this year there was very low attendance and the career center is trying their best to get the word out that these programs are happening. Every year we have to meet a quota and this year we barely met it.”

The attendance for Compass during Fall 2017 was 9 students who completed the program and in Spring 2018, 11 completed the program.

Passport (currently in its 3rd semester): Fall 2017, 8 completed the program / Spring 2018, 13 completed the program.

ATLAS: Fall 2017, 5 completed the program / Spring 2018, 10 completed the program.

“My programs actually ended with higher attendance in every single program (compared to previous semesters,) Babylon said via email.

“There are normally 50 plus students that complete the Summit program, this time there were close to 70 signed up and 30-ish that finished,” Babylon said via email. “This is the first time the numbers have gone down (in the Summit program) and I’m not sure why they did.”

Hailey Shannon and Sahzeah Babylon at the Summit certificate Ceremony. Photo courtesy of Hailey Shannon

Susan Chang, the assistant director of the Career and Professional Development Center, did not respond to three emails and one voicemail requesting comment.

The Summit program, a professional development series, is run by graduate student Maria Khalil.

Khalil did not respond to three emails requesting to comment.

Chapman students say the customized programs have been crucial in preparing them for careers and fill gaps not addressed by classes.

“Sahzeah met with me over multiple weeks and multiple sessions to ensure that every margin, word, and sentence was perfect for my resume,” said Noah Estrada Rand, a psychology major. “She genuinely cared about my success as a student who barely knew what a proper college resume looked like.”

Babylon’s “vast knowledge in all aspects and steps of finding and pursuing a career is what made her stand out from every other staff and faculty member at Chapman,” he added.

Hailey Shannon credited Babylon with winning her an internship.

“I went through the Compass program and she (Babylon) makes you go to an internship EXPO that happens in the fall; I went to the internship EXPO and I found the internship for the Newport Beach festival,” said Shannon. “The only reason I was prepared for the interview for the Newport Beach festival internship was because of Shahzeah’s program; I have learned more from her about how to walk into a professional setting then I have from any of my other classes.”

Andre Kacie, a junior business administration major recently transferred to Chapman this semester and is a part of the Compass program, which he praised for building a sense of community while building participants’ confidence and skills..

“Sahzeah really puts so much time and personal care into making sure that everyone in the program was getting the one-on-one attention they needed,” Kacie said. “Interviewing and resume building is not the most exciting thing to work on, but she made the program so fun and positive that I enjoyed going every week… I would be so sad to see the program go.”

Erin Guy, a junior public relations, and advertising major, polished her elevator pitch, learned how to conduct an informational interview, perfected her resume and practiced his interview and networking skills in the Compass program.

“I feel much more prepared for my after-college years and felt I have made a lasting bond and essential resource in my relationship with Sahzeah, ” Guy said.

Babylon’s warmth, joyful approach and personalized assistance buoyed her spirits and “made made me feel prepared for the future and sure about my decision to transfer.”

The Summit program was created by Dean Price’s office originally through student affairs but was handed over to the Career and Professional Development Center, according to Babylon . It is a professional development series that lasts seven weeks, Babylon said.

Babylon said the personalized, labor-intensive approach will be replaced with a more generalized one-size-fits-all series of seminars. “I think what is going to happen is they are going to have presentations or seminars throughout the semester and students are required to go to one at the beginning of the semester,” Babylon said. “Then they (the students) have to go to four or five sessions to get a certified certificate at the end of the semester for attending all the programs.”

That may sound like a good idea, but there are some fall backs, she said.

“In small programs, the whole idea is that you form a community, you get to know the person your working with and you build this network of people,” Babylon said. “How is that supposed to happen if you are just going to a random seminar presentation sometime during the semester?”

The programs new replacement program will be run by Susan Chang with her Grad assistant Maria Khalil, according to Babylon.

The ATLAS program targets freshman and sophomores that are undeclared and has been going on for the last four years, Babylon said.

The Compass program which was developed last semester was designed to help transfer students who had problems transitioning. “Transfer students were graduating but they weren’t getting involved, they weren’t networking, all the things that are necessary to Chapman,” Babylon said. “The program was created to get a jump start into all those things.”

Katie Whitman

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