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Silver Lake College to become America’s first Catholic higher education institution to adopt a Work College model

Posted On May 25, 2015

To better prepare students for a 21st century work environment, Silver Lake College is poised to become America’s first Catholic higher education institution to adopt the Work College model.

On May 22, the college’s board of directors approved moving toward full compliance and adoption of the federal Work College model.

Starting with the 2016-2017 academic year, 100 percent of incoming full-time, residential students will be required to participate. The college plans to officially apply for Work College status in 2018-2019 (institutions first must have two years of Work College programs under their belts).

“This model helps make college more affordable for students,” said Dr. Chris Domes, who will be entering his third year as president of Silver Lake College. “But, more importantly, this model helps prepare students for a 21st century work environment. It creates an opportunity while students are in school to build a robust resume using jobs on campus as well as partnerships in the community utilizing internships.”

Dr. Domes added that the Work College model “fits our mission exceptionally well, and it allows us to truly educate the whole person, allowing students to prepare themselves professionally — which means being adaptable, being able to work in teams, and being able to utilize a strong work ethic. And when you blend that with our liberal arts curriculum, students will be ready to hit the ground running in their careers and in life, in general, once they receive their degrees at Silver Lake College.”

Full-time undergraduate, residential students could receive a work grant up to $3,200, requiring them to work 10 hours per week. Student employees will be able to earn wages directly by working additional hours beyond the initial 10 hours. Ideally, students will be employed on average between 10 and 15 hours per week.

After completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students also may be eligible for additional scholarships and grants. This commitment to provide financial aid and employment opportunities to each student will keep a Silver Lake College education affordable.

Megan Sheahan can attest to the benefits of working while attending college.

During her senior year at Silver Lake College, the Whitelaw native interned both semesters at M&M Tax and Accounting in Kellnersville.

The folks at M&M were so impressed with Sheahan’s work ethic and knowledge that they offered her a full-time job a few weeks before she received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting on May 2.

“Working and going to school at the same time is valuable, because it ties everything together and makes everything make so much more sense,” Sheahan said. “Bookwork and fieldwork are completely different, and getting to have that real-world experience will be so helpful in my future career.”

Work Colleges integrate work responsibilities — complete with supervisors and evaluations — along with community service activities into every student’s education. The work program on each campus is distinctive, designed to meet campus needs and complement relevant coursework.

When Work College graduates enter a chosen career, they’re already equipped with many of the skills that today’s employers say they desire, but have difficulty finding in applicants.

In recent research by The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than half the employers surveyed said it was a challenge to find recent graduates qualified enough to fill open positions. Citing a lack of basic workplace proficiencies like communication skills, adaptability and complex problem solving, employers are placing more emphasis on work experience than traditional indicators like grade-point average.

Silver Lake College, which is sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, will be the only Work College in Wisconsin. The other seven Work Colleges nationwide include Blackburn College in Illinois, College of the Ozarks in Missouri, Ecclesia College in Arkansas, Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, Sterling College in Vermont, and Alice Lloyd College and Berea College, both in Kentucky. Some Work Colleges’ work programs have a proven track record dating back more than 100 years.

Graduates of those colleges speak highly of what they gained from a Work College experience.

Aubrey Cunningham, a 2007 graduate of Blackburn College, said, “In my current line of work, I am constantly using communication, organizational and mediation skills, plus leadership and working with diverse groups. The work program was a huge help in not only securing a job, but being successful in (my chosen) career.”

At Silver Lake College, the Work College program will be led by a Work College director. Students will also have a role in helping manage fellow students. Some on-campus job opportunities may include academic tutoring, library services, technology services, athletics, public relations/marketing, food service, work program management and research.

For more information about Work Colleges, please visit www.workcolleges.org.