Spring on the York College campus

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Hands-On, Career-Ready

Jalen Green stands in front of the baseball field at Citizen's Bank Park.

That day, and for the next few days, every time Green picked up his line, there was an angry fan on the other end. The Phillies (Green’s employer since he graduated in May 2017 with a degree in Sport Management) had made the decision to cancel Pete Rose’s upcoming induction into the team’s Wall of Fame when statutory rape allegations against Rose came to light. That call, while made in conjunction with Rose, didn’t sit well with many of the faithful fans.

“Within 20 minutes of the Phillies’ press release [announc- ing the decision], fans went from happy to mad,” Green recalls. “As ticket sales associates, we are the first responders to anything, and I was on the front lines with calls.”

Personable and professional, Green is a natural with people. But what kicked in that challenging morning for the rookie sales associate was the education he received at York College, in and out of the classroom. “In my public relations class at YCP, we ran through scenarios just like this,” he explains. “I knew what to do to handle the calls, let people vent their frustrations and reassure them what the team stands for.”

Green, a double minor in Business Administration and Marketing, gained on-the-job training on campus, shadowing, and doing an internship: “In this industry, it is about how much experience you have. My professors pushed me to get as much as I could and put us in touch with alumni.”

The Experiential Learning Edge

As a senior, Green was an intern with the Phillies. Though not a York College graduation requirement, several majors require an internship, including Criminal Justice, Human Services, Professional Writing, and Sport Management.

“Other majors all have options for students to take internship work experiences,” explains Jolynn Varano, Associate Director of Career Development and Internship Coordinator.

Internships equal relevant work experience, always a bonus with employers. A 2018 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey cites the average job offer rate to interns is 59% (with a 77.3% acceptance rate). Such was Green’s fate: At the end of his internship in March 2017, he was hired part-time, then full-time once he graduated.

Project-based, hands-on learning hardly begins or ends with an internship or required student-teaching experience, however. YCP offers co-ops for engineering majors, clinicals for nursing students, and faculty/student research, providing deep-dives into career exploration and readiness. Many students seek out more than one outside learning experience, whether it be a part-time job, volunteer role or a few days’ worth of shadowing someone over winter break. “YCP students are definitely taking more experiential opportunities,” Varano notes.

Experiential learning is part of the YCP classroom, too. Green, like every Sport Management major, took four required Sport Management practicum courses as a freshman and sophomore. Designed to enhance career development skills, practicums explore sport industry careers, teach resume writing and networking skills, and more. Each class also requires 30 hours of practical experience with YCP’s Athletics and Recreation Department. A three-sport high-school athlete, Green worked at YCP sporting events, creating brackets, assisting with gameflow, and working the scoreboard.

“From a professionalism perspective, we explicitly teach students how to do their best at all times, whether it is presenting themselves on a resume or interview, effectively networking, professional attire, etc.,” explains Molly Hayes Sauder, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Chair, Sport Management and Sport Media. Each semester, the department hosts Professional Day on campus, inviting sport professionals to interact with students, conduct
mock interviews, and make career connections.

“I knew I definitely wanted to be in the front office of a major-league team,” says Green of his real-world learning from practicums, his sophomore-year position with the YCP facilities management office, shadowing a Philadelphia 76ers sales executive as a junior, and, finally, his Phillies internship. “My first shadow experience [outside of YCP] didn’t scare me. My classes had prepared me for real-world situations. Every class, every test helped me in one way or another to get me where I am.”

A College-wide Commitment to Career Readiness

Long gone are the days when seniors waited until their last semester to visit the Career Development Office. YCP’s Career Development Office begins working with students during their first few weeks at the College.

The goal, Varano says, is to introduce them to the resources – and the multiyear process – needed to prepare students for a lifetime of career success.

Career Development hosts workshops, open to the Spartan community, ranging from using LinkedIn and dining etiquette to interview skills and on-campus networking events with employers. Varano and her colleagues work closely with faculty to meet the career nuances of specific majors. “Career Development is an active partner with our program, guest speaking in our classes, attending our special events, and so on,” says Sauder. “They, as well as Alumni Relations and the Center for Academic Innovation, are key collaborators in making the experiential work we do with our students a success.”

“[Experiential learning] brings all of the theory and best practices we’ve learned in the classroom into a real-world context,” Sauder adds. “It creates new learning opportunities for students beyond the classroom and enhances their understanding of themselves both on a personal and professional level. And, of course, it expands their network of contacts and gives them credibility on their resumes, in interviews, etc.”

Real Preparation for Real Classrooms

Secondary Education major Rebecca Van Curen Kotzman ’15/M.Ed. ’18, found the first steps toward her dream of becoming a teacher through her work-study placement in the YCP Education Department. It was a perfect, four-year fit. “I really got to know the faculty,” she says.

“While all of our students are excellent, Rebecca’s exceptional work ethic and creativity made her stand out,” recalls Josh DeSantis, D.Ed., Associate Professor of Education, Director of Graduate Programs in Behavioral Sciences and Education, and Coordinator of Educational Technology. “This led me to ask her to be my assistant for a research project collecting data on flipped learning in mathematics classrooms, which led us to co-author a paper together.” (“Do Students Learn More from a Flip? An Exploration of the Efficacy of Flipped and Traditional Lessons,” Journal of Interactive Learning Research, Volume 26, Number 1, January 2015.)

Prior to her student teaching placement at Robert Patton High School in Morganton, North Carolina, Kotzman gained field experience in secondary classrooms in the York area. “We spent 10-15 hours per [YCP] class looking at specific things in each [high school] classroom,” she explains. “The Education Department did an awesome job determining the best placement for us.”

Still, her student teaching placement in an Advanced Placement (AP) classroom was a shock. “I had done observations and taught small lessons, but nothing comparable to the rigor of AP classes,” she recalls. “But YCP really empowered me and gave me the content knowledge and skill set. I had the courage to stand up in front of the class and the confidence to use new tools because my undergraduate program focused on emerging technology.” Today, she teaches AP-level courses at Middletown High School in central Pennsylvania, where she was hired after YCP graduation.

Kotzman was enrolled in a nearby Master’s program when DeSantis reached out to tell her about the new YCP M.Ed. program focused on technology. She transferred in 2016 into the program’s first cohort and graduated early in 2018, once again, finding a perfect fit at YCP.

“Almost every assignment in my M.Ed. was applicable in my classroom,” Kotzman says. As part of her graduate work, she designed a professional development program to help Middletown H.S. teachers use technology to communicate with families. For her graduate internship, she implemented the tool through teacher workshops, rolling out the program to her school district. “Almost every teacher [in the district] is using it now,” she adds proudly.

Kotzman, who plans to return to YCP for her doctorate, hosts regular professional development workshops on Google classroom. “The M.Ed. program encouraged me to take the leap forward and start leading these workshops,” she says.

While the education field has long required formal student teaching before receiving a degree, DeSantis is quick to point out the YCP difference: “Our programs stand out for the emphasis we place on the practice side of the balance between theory and practice. [Here], students can center on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of teaching. The internships, practica, and student teaching experiences we design are a manifestation of that pragmatic philosophy. Rebecca’s experience was rooted in a real need for technology professional development at her district. It is experiences like this that make York College an exceptional place to learn to teach.”

For students across the College, this emphasis on experiential learning allows them to take their learning into the world, confidently, competently, and well before they graduate to resonate well beyond.