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Career and Life Design Center | University News | Office of Technology

UCM Career and Life Design Center Building on Opportunities to Contribute to Successful Student Experience

By Jeff Murphy, October 13, 2022


Serving a vital need in the preparation of future graduates, the adoption of a new name signified by  colorful new signage greets visitors at the front of the University of Central Missouri Career and Life Design Center in Ward Edwards 1200

WARRENSBURG, MO – Adopting a new name that better identifies its role in preparing students to succeed, the University of Central Missouri’s Career Services Center recently became the UCM Career and Life Design Center.

This new moniker, introduced during the summer of 2022, reflects a transformation within the former Career Services Center in Ward Edwards 1200 to reach beyond its traditional role as a place where students go for resume-writing assistance, employer networking, and developing job search skills. “Life Design” thinking is being integrated into the office’s service model to help students with decision making and empower them with knowledge and connections that will serve them well on whatever path their education and professional pursuits take. This new methodology is complemented by the Career and Life Design Center’s continued implementation of traditional career-related assets as well as the new Walk-In Studio Experience (WISE) and Professional Clothing Studio.

“We felt like this was the time to really look at our center as a whole to make sure our mission, vision and name align,” said Amber Goreham, director of the Career and Life Design Center. “We’ve transformed into a center that helps students not only think about what life looks like after college, but think about what they are doing here that is going to help them move forward to those next steps.”

For many students, this journey will begin by introducing them to the Life Design concept, which is rapidly gaining ground as an important part in their planning for the future at UCM. Life Design is based on the best-selling book, “Designing Your Life,” written by Stanford University faculty members Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. In their work, the authors show readers, regardless of their age, occupation, or where they are, how they can use design thinking to create a meaningful, fulfilling career and life. They include steps for individuals to employ empathy, curiosity, collaboration and action to help students address questions or concerns that may stand between them and their journey to a successful future.

Roots for the center’s adoption of this concept began to grow when its staff utilized Title III funding to attend a virtual training session on Life Design at Stanford in December 2020. Although staff were already familiar with this methodology, those involved in the training session were further inspired by what they learned during the session, and wanted to implement this methodology into their efforts at UCM.

Since the 2021 fall semester, the center has offered a one-credit-hour Life Design Course, while also working with faculty, students, alumni and other special groups to introduce this topic through workshops and other opportunities. UCM’s Office of Integrated Marketing and Communications, for example, spent an afternoon at the center in late July learning more about the Life Design concept and how it can benefit each of its staff members. University alumni and other professional groups have also taken part in similar exercises, but students continue to be the main benefactors.

“There have been a lot of great compliments from students who have taken the course,” said Amber Goreham, director of the Career and Life Design Center. “The course is so new, we’re trying to get the word out, and help students understand what it is and if it is something they should think about taking.”

Alex Wilson, a former student from the Kansas City area, spoke about the program before graduating in May 2022. After earning a two-year degree at another institution, he came to UCM in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Digital Media Production, but needed assistance with his planning and preparation for timely graduation. 

“I went to the Life Design class looking for advice after college, but what I found was –  not only did I have that post-college early career advice, I found a lot of tools that have helped me shape this last year. I feel very organized now, and have laid everything out. I know what I’m doing.”

The Life Design Course is taught in the Career and Life Design Center, which is also the site of considerable upgrades that were made to support the mission and vision for this area. According to Goreham, approximately $80,500 in federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) was used to upgrade the space with assistance provided by Ray Walters in the Ofice of Technology. This includes technological enhancements such as the installation of several 65-inch video screens that contribute to improved interaction and engagement with students and other facility users. The new equipment makes it possible to interact with a large group of people as a whole, or segment the area to accommodate smaller groups or work one-on-one with individuals. Other technology tools such as computers, in addition to new tables, desks and furniture throughout the area enhance the overall user experience.

“This has created a great flex space where we can do a lot of different things with students. All of the furniture is moveable,” Goreham said. “When we think about all of the constituents that come in here, we can arrange the space according to their needs and ensure that it is functional for them.”

This space also houses the Walk-in Studio Experience (WISE). Students and alumni can access WISE just by walking in – no appointment is necessary during operational hours 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. WISE offers coaches to help with life design, job and internship searches, resume and cover letter writing, mock job interviews, and more. In addition to these opportunities, a free head-shot studio is now available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. This is especially helpful for students who are looking for a quality photo to put on social media accounts such as Linkedin or to use with online networking opportunities.

The staff at the Career and Life Design Center has looked for ways to serve students beyond education and career preparation, and their innovativeness has extended to the wardrobe. Thanks to such efforts, students who are preparing for a job interview or have the opportunity to attend a professional networking event should not worry if they lack funds for appropriate attire. The Career and Life Design Center offers the Professional Clothing Studio, a facility that is located in the Ward Edwards Building and is open the same hours as WISE. The studio was created with CARES funding, an Opportunity Grant funded by the UCM Alumni Foundation’s Central Annual Fund, and by endowed partner Murdock Banner, sponsor of the Red Advantage program. It houses thousands of donated men’s and women’s clothing items that students can select for their career-related needs. 

“There were over 1,000 students who used the Professional Clothing Center the last academic year, and more than 3,000 articles of clothing were distributed,” Goreham said. All of this was free of charge to students who can either re-donate the items when finished using them or keep them for future events. Students can take up to four items per month.

Combined with a quality education, the Career and Life Design Center hopes to continue its longstanding contributions to successful student outcomes. Recent statistics show that UCM achieved a 97% fist destination success rate, which means its graduates are either working, going on to graduate school, 
serving in the military, or participating in a volunteer service program. This same percentage of graduates also say their academic program at UCM prepared them for success. Committed to its role in helping to build upon such positive statistics, and with a new name and more opportunities for students, the Career and Life Design Center is poised to continue playing a significant role in creating the best experience possible for those who choose UCM.    



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