LAS CRUCES – It all started in 2017 with a grant from the National Science Foundation. New Mexico State University was one of 12 universities nationwide to receive the cyber infrastructure training grant. But as the fourth year of NMSU’s Cyberinfrastructure Training and Mentorship (CI-TraM) program wrapped up in late July, a program called Career Exploration Training and Mentoring was already preparing to take its place this fall.
One of the most popular parts of the program for high school students was career preparation and exploration. As a member of the original CI-TraM team, NMSU taught students how to network in the workplace, advance their technical skills and take ownership of the management of their career path.
“It’s a good transition from high school to DACC or first year on the main campus,” said Diana V. Dugas, principal investigator of the CI-TraM project. “The DACC takes this program and works with it. Robert Mitchell is teaching two double credit courses this fall. He uses the CI-TraM program, but modified it to conform to a DACC course. The DACC course continues the career exploration and preparation modules and expands the technical modules.
Mitchell, a DACC Auxiliary Instructor who also served as a CI-TraM Project Manager for the past year, continues the training that started in CI-TraM in the form of a course on special topics called Career Exploration Training and Mentoring. or CETraM.
“What we’re trying to do is help high school students recognize their own abilities,” Mitchell said. “We help them find answers to questions not only about the computer world, but also about the fields of engineering and science. Exploration can lead to anything they want. Last semester a student said he wanted to be a neurologist, but after the course he changed his mind and decided he wanted to start running a hospital.
Over the past four years, the CI-TraM program has mentored and trained 81 interns who spent seven hours per week for two semesters at the NMSU data center as a job site to acquire technology skills in addition to coaching from career. The numbers were lower over the past year and a half due to the Covid-19 pandemic, although students still learned valuable life skills.
In a survey of interns, students in the program said they gained communication and networking skills as well as the confidence to talk to people in their area of interest.
Mitchell’s course provides students with a personalized career goal plan while teaching them how to improve their resumes, elevate their speeches, and develop an electronic web-based portfolio to showcase various professionals and organizations offering internship opportunities.
“They will be logging 12 interviews per semester and that will set them up with a network of contacts for potential future professional positions,” Mitchell said. “Then we try to align their plan with their degree. There are some basic technical activities such as Excel, Financial Literacy, Career Search, Portfolio, and Mini-Bio. The aim is to have a professional-looking CV, technical training and a certain number of contacts to increase their chances of landing their first professional job.
The final course exam involves students choosing a job offer, sending it to their mentor, and Mitchell arranges a meeting as if he’s interviewing them for that job.
Dugas is pleased to see the success of the program continue beyond the CI-TraM grant through the partnership with the DACC. The Dugas team plans to continue monitoring the long-term progress of students after graduation from college to track how they integrate technology and other skills they have learned into their careers. “When we give these students guidance now, we are preparing them for success later in life,” she said.
Minerva Baumann writes for Marketing and Communications at New Mexico State University and can be reached at 575-646-7566, or by email at [email protected].