The University of Wisconsin’s new online Foundations of Professional Development certificate gives students a chance to develop well-rounded professional skills they may not learn in their majors.
Christine Nicometo, program director for the Foundations of Professional Development, said executives indicate that businesses require individuals with competence in communication, project management and leadership — qualities they say applicants have been lacking.
The new online certificate works to fill this gap, Jeff Russell, dean of the Division of Continuing Studies, said. The certificate is available to all students — graduate and undergraduate — who are interested in acquiring a competitive edge in the job market.
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Graduate students have returned saying they were lacking exposure in terms of business management and transitioning skills from school to a business environment, Russell said. Employers want technical skills, but also the organization it requires to be a leader.
“The basic notion was that we would be able to put these together in small modules that would allow people to come in and get access to these skills without necessarily getting a master’s degree in engineering and MBA,” Russell said.
The program consists of 14 online professional competency courses, but can be completed with just nine courses, Nicometo said.
The certificate teaches students how to lead teams, create and deliver dynamic presentations and understand legal, financial and marketing concepts, Nicometo said. The goal is to make students well rounded professionals.
“We don’t know how to work really well across the spectrum with others and be able to relate or understand the languages, practices or mindsets of some of those other groups,” Nicometo said.
The courses are offered through the College of Engineering, but are applicable to all areas of study. Each course is just one credit and only eight weeks long, Nicometo said, allowing students to complete the certificate as quickly or as slowly as they want.
Nicometo said the certificate only takes 10 months to complete, giving students a “professional boost” more quickly than obtaining a master’s degree.
The fourteen courses are further broken up into three categories of development: personal, speaking and organizational, Nicometo said. Two courses from each category are required — the first is mandatory and the second is chosen by the student.
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The program also includes highly-interactive web conferences, which encourage students to be more engaged, Nicometo said. Students chat, post links and discuss case studies while the instructor promptly answers questions online. Professional guest speakers also may make appearances during the conference, Nicometo said.
Russell said the certificate has a lot of value for any student on campus, as it is not geared for one specific degree and, because it is online, is accessible to anyone at any time.
“We think it’s something that has a lot of value, and everybody is at different points in terms of their overall development,” Russell said. “We are trying to divide high-quality learning experiences in relevant topics that people are looking for.”