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Published: Tuesday, 11/12/2013

Defiance College: Advisory Boards Help Create Better Programs

Graduating college students are always looking for an edge in what is becoming an increasingly competitive job market. Regardless of their career path – business, social work, education, medicine, sports – graduates find that the competition for jobs is fierce, and their diploma and resumé need to stand out from the crowd.

At Defiance College, students are getting a distinctive advantage based on a curriculum that is becoming progressively focused on precisely the kinds of experience and skills that employers are looking to hire. National advisory boards in numerous majors are enhancing the academic experience and ensuring that the college’s programs are cutting-edge.

The advisory boards bring together Defiance College faculty with experts from across the country to provide real-time and real-world advice. For example, corporations and organizations such as Price Waterhouse Coopers, Intel Corporation, Smithsonian Institution, and the Detroit Tigers are represented on boards.

Lisa Marsalek, director of career development and assistant dean of students, notes that the boards provide a great opportunity for faculty to engage with experts in their professional discipline or program area. The professionals share the latest trends in their fields and discuss strengths and weaknesses they are seeing in college graduates entering their profession. This in turn helps Defiance College evaluate if the current curriculum is on target or how the college can better prepare students for their careers.

Dr. Gregg Gunsch, professor of digital forensic science, is pleased with the interaction he has had with the digital forensics advisory board. He describes its members as a diverse cross-section of professionals in industry, academics, and law enforcement at the local and federal levels. “We have tool users and tool developers,” Gunsch explained. The advisory board has also been able to provide field experience for students and regularly call Gunsch for recommendations of graduates for job openings.

There are approximately 25 members on the digital forensics advisory board, and they meet two times a year. When curriculum changes were being considered, board members were surveyed for their suggestions. “They tell us what areas are important to them, and we take that to heart,” said Gunsch. Two new classes have been added along with an emphasis on report writing, thanks to this input.

Dr. Marian Plant, professor of religious studies and ministry studies, is also enthusiastic about her advisory board. After providing an overview of the two programs, Plant fielded questions and received good feedback on the programs’ direction. “It was reinforcement of what we as professional educators are doing,” she said. Plant added that it is good to know she can pick up the phone and call members of the committee to discuss an idea that might strengthen the student experience.

Marsalek points to sport management as another program that has successfully utilized its advisory board. Faculty connections with the members have helped set up visits to professional athletic venues as well as meetings with coaches and trainers.

Defiance College president Mark C. Gordon noted that advisory board members’ suggestions in terms of how to train students and their willingness to collaborate with faculty in terms of networking and other support will make a significant difference for students as they enter the work force.

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