University News

Career Exploration receives $9.3 million gift from Knowlton Foundation

Career Center
April 13, 2016

Denison University announces that the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation has pledged a gift of $9.3 million to support Denison's work to create the benchmark program for helping students to transition from the liberal arts into the professions. The gift will create a permanent endowment to support the college's Center for Career Exploration, which has been renamed “The Austin E. Knowlton Center for Career Exploration.”

The Austin E. Knowlton Center will hold its grand opening at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, October 14, 2016. The campus community, including students, faculty and staff are welcome to join.

“Denison is profoundly grateful to the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation for this transformational gift,” said Denison University President Adam Weinberg. “The world of work has changed. Colleges must help students and recent graduates access the on-ramps into the professions, and we need to ensure that our graduates have the 'day-one' competencies that employers and graduate schools require. Over the last 24 months, we have been talking to CEOs, HR directors and others across the professions and have developed what we believe will be the model for career exploration. With this support, we can launch it.”

Denison's new approach, called Denison@Work, takes a different approach to career exploration, starting with three assumptions: 1) career exploration needs to be a process that stretches across a student's college career, and it extends as recent alumni make the transition into the professions of their choice, 2) we need to do a better job using the 40 percent of the year that falls between semesters to focus on pre-professional readiness and networking, 3) alumni and parents are an underleveraged resource for students.

The new model encourages early engagement with career exploration through a four-year developmental model.

  • Gaining Confidence: during their first year, students will be engaged in a series of workshops that help students build confidence while exploring existing interests and discovering new ones. Building on the college's strengths in faculty mentorship, students will have access to seminars and workshops that help them take some early steps in asking big questions about the kinds of lives they want to lead and how work fits into those lives.
  • Coaching, Exploring and Gaining Skills: Sophomores are focused on developing relationships with alumni and parents who can provide advice on career coaching and on filling their skills gaps. For example: students will have access to OnBoard, an online program offered between semesters that delivers eight self-paced, case-based instructional modules on skills that most employers find lacking in their entry-level applicant pools which include using spreadsheet programs, managing projects, reviewing financial statements, understanding basic accounting and writing professional documents.
  • Hands-On Experience: During the junior year, students gain first-hand, hands-on experience. The college will offer multiple internship and externship opportunities of various lengths, giving students experiences across different professional sectors in order to explore possibilities, work on skills, demonstrate capabilities, and develop networks.
  • Launching: By the senior year, students will be ready to participate in Campaign for My Future, a signature program to help students prepare for an effective job search. Students will learn how to set appropriate milestones to achieve their goals, how to navigate resources, and how to create clear messaging to prospective employers through written and face-to-face communication.

As part of the Denison@Work model, Denison will be among the first colleges in the nation to formally support students post-graduation as they make the transition into the professions. Online resources will be made available, and students will have access to Denison Connecting, a new program that brings together Denison alumni in cities across the country and the globe for evening networking receptions. As part of this, they can join career communities of Denison alumni in particular professions who provide support to each other as students seek jobs and entrance into graduate programs.

“The goal for college students should not be just to find a job, but to build a life. We need to help them explore the kinds of lives people lead and the ways they develop careers to support those lives. Our model is comprehensive and unique. It is a Denison model,” added Weinberg.

Richard Berman, Dean of Career Preparation, commented, “As this work progresses, we have effectively doubled our career staff, and we are implementing these programs and more. I am confident that the Knowlton Center will be known across the college landscape as providing the gold standard in career readiness.”

Eric Lindberg, a member of the Denison class of 1993 and Trustee of the Knowlton Foundation, said “We are very happy to partner with Denison in providing funding for this important initiative. Dutch Knowlton was very concerned about the preparedness of young Americans for competitive careers and personally knew Denison well, and he would be delighted to see his wealth supporting such a forward-thinking career development facility. The job market has become incredibly complex, and old-style career counseling is just totally insufficient. Denison continues to be a regional and emerging national leader in higher education and we look forward to continuing to work with the school, supporting this and further impactful and progressive projects.”

Austin E. “Dutch” Knowlton was the owner and chairman of the Knowlton Construction Company based in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Mr. Knowlton led more than 600 major construction projects throughout Ohio and the Midwest, including college and university buildings, hospitals and libraries. He also was an original founding partner and the largest shareholder of the Cincinnati Bengals, a minority owner of the Cincinnati Reds, and he was instrumental in building Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium for both teams.

Mr. Knowlton credited his many life successes to his transformative college experience, and created the Knowlton Foundation in 1981 to make high impact contributions to schools in Ohio and nearby states. Over the past two years, Denison has received a total of $500,000 from the Foundation for scholarship endowment to support STEM students from Ohio.

“Denison has the great good fortune of forward-looking and innovative career programming, and receiving this most-appreciated gift will endow The Austin E. Knowlton Center for Career Exploration to provide more ways to positively impact our students and graduates for years to come,” said Laurel Kennedy, Denison's vice president of student development.

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