Soft Skills Become Graduation Requirement for Business Degrees
By Whitney Frasier
To help meet the challenge of an increasingly competitive business environment, the College of Business Administration (CoBA) created a program that enables students to round out their business knowledge by developing personal and professional success skills while pursuing their degree at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM).
“Our college advisory boards have identified the shortage of professional success and soft skills as the number one needed growth area of our students - this appears to be true for the plurality of college students across the U.S.,” said Jim Hamerly, dean of CoBA. “In their first year of college the University’s First Year Program helps students achieve academic excellence in the classroom. CoBA's Business Professional Development Program (BPD) develops the personal and professional success skills in their second academic year.”
This fall CoBA sophomores will be the first cohort in the revised BPD program. Being coached throughout the academic year by outstanding Executives in Residence, students will fulfill their requirements and hone the necessary soft skills needed to differentiate themselves from numerous graduates across the nation.
“CSUSM students possess a strong work ethic -- over 80 percent work while in school -- and master academic achievement despite struggles with balance among work-school-family,” Hamerly said. “Over 50 percent are first-generation college students. I believe that BPD and the mentoring from the executives will improve the professional and personal success of our students by mastering these skills.”
Executives in Residence, or EIRs, are seasoned business professionals who will be coaching CoBA students in specific areas of personal and professional success skills.
“Our accomplished EIRs are awesome volunteers ‘giving back,’ ” Hamerly said. “They will volunteer a day a week to meet with their cohort of students as well meet individually with students to work through the development of these professional skills over one full academic year.”
Each EIR is assigned to a cohort of 35 students who are in their second year of college. The EIRs are:
- Janet Beronio; Regional President & General Manager of Harrah’s Resort Southern California
- William Byun; Co-Founder of Asia Renewables Conchubar
- Emilie Hersh; Principle & Founder of Unbuttoned Innovation
- Michael Marckx; Chief Development Officer for Creative Disruption
- Peter McLaughlin; Principle Consultant for McLaughlin Enterprises
- George Montgomery; Chairman for eDriving LCC
- Alan Omens; Professor Emeritus, Consultant
- Jim Ferguson; Lecturer at CSUSM
The goal is to increase retention by having students develop an individual development plan as well as think through and explore career options much earlier in their college education. This also gives students time to practice and develop critical professional skills in a low-risk environment.
“We want to substantially increase the number of students that graduate with job offers in hand in their chosen field,” Hamerly said. “We see this as a new form of co-curricular development of our students and I expect other colleges and universities to adopt similar programs.”
BPD is a prerequisite of the two capstone classes required for graduation and, as such, is a requirement. Though not a formal course per-se, it is required to be completed before graduation. The program will expand in year two to include first-year transfer students.
“We know of no other college program in the U.S. that provides the depth and breadth of skills development like BPD, especially in the second year of college,” Hamerly said. “It is unique in that every CoBA graduate will go through the program.”