Sunday, October 21

Sandra Wenceslao: UCLA should require students to join major-related activities

(Daily Bruin file photo)

(Daily Bruin file photo)

When you’re trying to score your dream job, you’ll need more than a flashy college degree. The work experience and knowledge acquired throughout college are equally, if not more, important than the degree itself.

Most students think that just because they got into one of the best universities in the country, they will automatically score their dream job.

However, thats rarely the case.

In order to ease into a career in a competitive field, extracurricular activities are a must, and UCLA should add a university-wide graduation requirement within each individual department that demands students join a club or take on an internship related to their major.

It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to form or manage such clubs. Individual departments within UCLA can make major-specific clubs or offer internships within the department. Existing clubs can be approved and supervised by department staff so that students can earn credit while doing something they already love. Departments can even add to or restructure the club in order to make it more relevant to a specific department.

There are already a few examples the school can use for inspiration. Service-learning courses require fieldwork within the community, and the applied developmental psychology minor offers a fully immersive experience by requiring an in-depth internship with hands-on experience with young children at UCLA childcare centers. These kinds of experiences would only have a positive impact on students because students would not only learn how to interact with those in higher positions but also with those that they are offering services to.

Helping students find better access to these immersive experiences is a good idea, and they can be more helpful to students if they reached all corners of the university. That’s why every department should add them as a graduation requirement. They can prepare students for what is to come once graduation rolls around and ensure that students have some sense of what is expected of them when they enter the workforce.

And this requirement won’t just be another hoop students must jump through in order to graduate – it will actually help them understand the field they hope to someday build a life in. With this, students will be able to explore the various jobs in their field. It would be similar to job-shadowing programs like Betagig, but free – well, except for the tuition fees. The chances of graduated students working undesirable jobs will lessen significantly because they would already have something in mind.

Internships can allow students to shadow people in their potential careers, therefore giving them a taste of what they want to do in the future. Students with work experience will be better prepared for jobs because they’ll not only know the academic side of their careers but also the business and social side of them. English courses can help a student analyze a poem from the 18th century, but they can’t help them write and share creative stories with feedback as much as a club like the Writer’s Den can.

Department-specific programs can also be created in order to give back to LA communities, much like the university’s mandatory Volunteer Day. But unlike Volunteer Day, these programs can provide a long-term, long-lasting impact.

Field work programs that are department-specific and community-based will create a more well-rounded student who is aware of the hardships the LA community goes through. Clubs that seek to help the community can improve the lives of elementary, middle and high school students. The Writer’s Den, for example, visits schools and teaches storytelling and writing to students in LA. These programs would allow for students to not be solely focused on getting good grades, but rather be balanced in all the strengths that a potential employer looks for. Students can strengthen their communication skills and gain hands-on experience by socializing with those that already have experience in their desired field. They can experience more than just analysis of a dead author in a classroom.

Although these programs can be beneficial in the long run, it could be difficult to ensure that they’re efficient. Certainly, it would be difficult to keep track of the progress of students’ field work and verify whether a student is actually participating. Students may just be showing up to a club or service learning course without actually doing anything productive. But it would ensure that a student is more than a present body if clubs and organizations were supervised by professors, teaching assistants or university staff that belong to the corresponding department. Otherwise, the counselors already in place can monitor the progress of a select groups of students’ field work.

And letting students choose from various options can help ease the burden for students already saddled with mounting graduation requirements. A social requirement could easily be fulfilled by field work courses, clubs or internships that are department- or major-specific because students will not only be interacting with peers that have no clue about what the workforce will look like but also with people who have had years of experience and knowledge.

UCLA needs to add a field work requirement that students should fulfill under the supervision of their major’s department. The field work requirement should be fulfilled by department- and major-specific internships as well as clubs and organizations that departments within UCLA should begin to offer. Required field work would allow students to explore jobs within their major. Not only that, but it would aid in creating a student and civilian who is well-rounded and balanced in academics. It would be a great experience that students may enjoy.

I agree that students should have flashy degrees in order to wow their potential employers, but adding field experience to the mix can push them over the finish line to their dream job.

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Opinion columnist

Sandra Wenceslao is an Opinion columnist.

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