The University of Arkansas' Professional Development Institute

by Barbara Batson

The Professional Development Institute
University Of Arkansas
Career Development Center

Vision and Mission
The PDI aims to be a leading and nationally recognized career development and training program, committed to enhancing student professionalism and empowering students to present themselves effectively as candidates for employment or for graduate / professional school. It's mission is

  • To provide comprehensive training and development to students through workshops, conferences and experiential activities.
  • To enable students to make effective career decisions and be prepared for entry into the workforce or graduate / professional school.

In the Professional Development Institute, students receive assistance with resumes, cover letters, interviews, and etiquette. PDI students also participate in core training i.e., Diversity in the Workplace, the 30-second commercial, personal branding, and managing finances. Students earn credits (co-curricular) for participating in experiential education (service-learning, internships, Co-op, externships, etc.). They are expected to provide leadership and service within the campus community.
PDI students are assigned a Career Coach who guides them through career decision-making and job search. Although the Coach leads the students by providing resources, information, and encouragement, one of the goals is to help students become more self-directed.

PDI Objectives
Students choose to be a part of the Professional Development Institute for the following reasons:

  • to present themselves effectively as candidates for employment or for graduate / professional school;
  • to develop job-search competencies;
  • to expand their appreciation for diversity;
  • to network with employers;
  • to learn how to maintain a professional image;
  • to participate in leadership opportunities;
  • to develop professional communication skills;
  • to achieve career and educational goals;
  • to become intellectually engaged through experiential activities;
  • to develop self-awareness through career exploration and planning;
  • to maintain a strong bond to the University of Arkansas

    The program is in its first year and feedback suggests the Career Development Center is on the right track. Students are participating in career education and training programs at a much higher rate than in past years. Most workshops in the fall 2005 semester reached maximum registration and formed a waiting list.

    Assessments include both program and individual participant evaluations. Staff members utilize a four-level model of program evaluation:
    1. satisfaction - did participants enjoy the event or program?
    2. learning - did participants learn something new or expand their understanding?
    3. change in behavior - will the learning result in new behaviors?
    4. results - will the change in behavior ultimately aid participants in reaching their career goals?


    The Professional Development Institute curriculum consists of a series of career education programs including workshops, conferences and experiential activities sponsored by the Career Development Center that are specially designed to meet the objectives of the Institute. Two tracks have been developed for the Professional Development Institute. These tracks include an Experiential Education Program and a Career Education Program.

    • Experiential Education is designed primarily for freshmen and sophomore students in preparation for a Co-op, internship, or externship.
    • Career Education will focus on preparing students for the job search and/or applying to professional /graduate school. This program is recommended for students who are within four semesters of graduation, including graduate students.

    Sample Specific Programming: Diversity Training

    Because we believe it is important to help students learn how to transition from campus to what they call "the real world", we seek employers' advice quite often. When an employer partner mentioned a specific challenge related to diversity in the workplace, we offered their company an opportunity to co-sponsor a training workshop.

    One hundred students and employers participated in a Diversity in the Workplace program to help students understand the challenges they will face in the workplace unlike those faced in the classroom. It is not unusual for a recent college graduate, of traditional college student age, to join a company as a Team Leader with Team Members the age of the graduate's parents or grandparents. Many employers say this is one of the biggest challenges that new hires face in the workplace. The program helped students understand the need to respect the Team Members' experience with the company and, at the same time, earn their respect as a Leader. Students were introduced to legislation related to employment practices and reviewed Diversity Statements embraced by some of our leading companies.

    During the workshop, students were asked to face prejudices associated with stereotypes of some minority groups. Instructors compared these stereotypes to "tapes running in our heads". Participants learned that whether the stereotype is positive or negative, it still creates "limits and expectations" for individuals. Instructors urged students to "stop or pause" the tape of stereotypes running in their heads and see the individual for who he or she really is.

    Because of the importance of this topic and the relevance to the University of Arkansas' vision, several senior administrators attended this workshop and provided feedback on the program.

    The Career Development Center anticipates assessment results will support the importance of this program. The Professional Development Institute has attracted students who see the need for skill development and are willing to integrate it into their total education. It is the intent of the University of Arkansas Career Development Center to continue marketing this program to all students as we seek to become a competitive advantage for the University.

    Barbara Batson has been Director of the University of Arkansas Career Development Center since 2001. Prior to this position, Barbara held the following positions in this Center: Associate Director for Employer Relations, Director of Cooperative Education, Program Coordinator. Barbara has an M.S. in education from Texas A&M at Commerce and a B.A. in psychology from Ouachita Baptist University. She has completed extensive coursework toward an Ed.D. in adult education at the University of Arkansas. Prior to employment at the University, Barbara held positions of Training Director for the banking industry. She may be contacted through bbatson@uark.edu or by telephone at 479-575-2806.

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