Note: This story is part of a series highlighting the impact of the $2.7-million legacy gift made by the late Stephanie Mitchell, in honour of her late husband Gerald Mitchell, in 2020. The gift has since established the Gerald B. Mitchell Centre of Excellence in Career and Experiential Education at Brock University.
Stephanie Mitchell dreamed of removing barriers and setting students from all backgrounds up for success following graduation.
That wish is coming to fruition through Brock’s Gerald B. Mitchell Centre of Excellence in Career and Experiential Education, which was established in her late husband’s name following a legacy gift made to the University.
While new university graduates possess fundamental skills necessary for the job market or the pursuit of additional education, they often struggle to translate their skills to these landscapes. This creates a perceived skills gap for graduates, which in reality, is simply a skills translation gap, says Laura Fyfe, the centre’s Skills Translation Co-ordinator.
Since joining the University in 2018, Fyfe’s work has focused on developing and integrating Brock’s 10 career-readiness competencies across campus. The initial goal of the project was to help students translate their experiences, knowledge, skills and attributes into language used and understood in the workforce and beyond, and has since led Brock to be recognized as an innovative leader in the post-secondary space across the national and global stage.
Today, the ‘Brock Competencies’ have become an integral part of the University’s career curriculum and are integrated into all aspects of the centre’s work. They are introduced to students starting in the first year through workshop content, in-class presentations, career resources and scaffolded throughout both curricular (such as co-op and experiential education courses) and co-curricular (such as Med and Law Plus) programming.
By starting conversations around the competencies early, students are prepared with shared language when it comes time to engage with employers and community partners. When students use the competencies as a basis for self-assessment and reflection in experiential learning, they are able to articulate their skills and knowledge and translate these moments in new and meaningful ways.
“Helping students understand and articulate the competencies they are gaining gives them a sense of ownership over their skill development and their unique career journey,” says Fyfe.
“That ‘ah-ha’ moment when a student sees their role in a group project as ‘collaboration,’ their essay writing as ‘effective communication,’ and their original argument as ‘innovation’ is a moment when students see the tremendous benefits of the skills they are learning here at Brock.”
As external interest in the Brock Competencies grew across academia, so too did interest within the University.
Recently, Fyfe has been working with Brock’s Faculty of Humanities to establish department-specific competencies aligned with the Faculty’s Strategic Plan and the University’s original 10 competencies.
Recognizing that every student will experience and approach the Brock Competencies differently, extending the idea to department-specific competencies will allow for more tailored outcomes for students and their teachers.
“The best teaching is always deeply, relentlessly self-reflexive, as teachers work to shape their practice to respond to the changing needs of their students and communities,” says James Allard, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Student Affairs and Curriculum, Faculty of Humanities.
“The work to articulate competencies and skills translation is a crucial part of those efforts for two related reasons. First, it prompts a necessary ‘step back’ to consider what we as individual instructors really want our students to know, beyond the subject matter and course content, and thus demands the kind of critical self-reflexivity that drives the best teaching,” he says. “Second, it brings together the already genuinely committed teachers in departments across the Faculty of Humanities to talk about how best to work collectively so our students acquire the skills and competencies at the heart of our disciplines.”
The team within the Gerald B. Mitchell Centre of Excellence is looking to establish specific career-readiness competencies in collaboration with each of Brock’s seven Faculties moving forward.
The ability to grow Brock’s skills translation programming and enhance the competencies model is made possible, in large part, thanks to the legacy gift from Stephanie Mitchell.
With no formal education of his own, her husband, Gerald B. Mitchell, was able to translate his experiential education into valuable workplace skills. His legacy will live on in all Brock students involved in meaningful co-curricular and curricular experiences as they gain the ability to articulate and translate these skills and competencies that prepare them for the future of work.
Those interested in learning more about Brock’s competencies and skills translation programming through the Gerald B. Mitchell Centre of Excellence in Career and Experiential Education can visit the centre’s website or contact Fyfe at firstname.lastname@example.org