Launch pad | U.C. Davis Magazine

Kimmy Nguyen ’19 credits three years as a Unitrans Store Assistant for helping her land what became her first career position working on the design and integration of engines, transmissions and more at the bus manufacturer GILLIG of Livermore, California.

“That’s one of the things that separated me from other applicants,” said Nguyen, who majored in mechanical and aerospace engineering. “Few graduating seniors can say they’ve worked on a natural gas engine or removed a bus transmission.

The campus is embarking on a major initiative to make career readiness, with experiential learning like Nguyen’s, accessible to all students in the interests of equity and social justice.

Through Aggie Launch, the university aims to foster opportunities so that all graduates – including those from low-income families, underrepresented minorities, first-generation students and women – can benefit from a meaningful, timely and gainful employment.

“We see this as a social justice issue,” said Marcie Kirk Holland, executive director of the Internship and Career Center.

According to a 2018 national study by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work and Burning Glass Technologies, a graduate’s first job is key to setting the tone for the rest of their career and income. The research found that for every three graduates who started out underemployed – in a job for which they are overqualified – two remained underemployed after five years.

Aggie Launch is UC Davis’ vision to help students begin career preparation early, participate in a broader range of experiential learning, benefit from career mentorship, and graduate with a solid career plan or a path to advanced studies. The initiative aims to break down barriers to student participation – including raising awareness of opportunities, finances and the lack of transportation to jobs and internships.

Aggie Launch is one of the Big Ideas, the flagship fundraising priorities of the university’s $2 billion overall campaign. Related programs and hundreds of students have already benefited from more than $10 million in donations.

Involving a “fleet” of partners across academic and administrative units, Aggie Launch will build on existing successes, such as Aggie EVO, which offers career development programs for student-athletes. “The real power is in coaches prioritizing the professional development of student-athletes, just as they do their athletic training,” said Kirk Holland. “Our goal is to replicate this type of orientation across campus.”

In recent developments:

  • The Aggie Square neighborhood integrates classroom learning and community engagement through Aggie Square, the innovation hub that opened in February on the Sacramento campus.
  • As part of the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps announced in January (for more, see page 9), UC Davis is leading a consortium of four colleges and universities to provide paid work experience in community organizations. With special efforts to invite low-income and undocumented students to participate, the program will include professional development classes and workshops. About 500 UC Davis students are expected to participate over two years.
  • A pilot program at UC Davis is giving an additional $400,000 in co-op funds this year to startups and small businesses that employ students with financial need.

Citing Unitrans as a model, Holland said Aggie Launch would work to increase the mentoring and skills development offered through more than 5,000 student jobs on campus.

Aggie Launch also provides:

  • train interested faculty, staff, and student leaders as career champions to help students develop and plan their careers
  • engage staff and recent alumni in groups to help students explore an area of ​​professional interest
  • expand Internship and Career Center resources and services
  • seek private funding to pay students participating in unpaid experiential learning

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