Finding Their Fit

Video of CliftonStrengths assessment at the Haworth College of Business

That first year of college is one to remember. Declaring a major, navigating your way around campus, creating your own schedule (no more 8 a.m. classes!), securing a favorite place to study, making a few mistakes and ultimately preparing for a successful career post-graduation. It’s a traditional rite of passage. 

Yet today, more and more students are choosing a less traditional route, taking their first steps onto a four-year college campus only after completing programs at community college. While others have already set their schedules, formed relationships and are landing internships and co-ops to augment their studies, transfer students are just beginning to adjust to new surroundings at a critical time in their academic progress. 

Faced with a unique set of challenges, transfer students are looking to develop the skills needed to launch a successful career, and launch it quickly. How does the college cater to this kind of business student? The answer—BUS 3000, a class focused on the needs and challenges of transfer students at WMU. 

The Transfer Class

While a multitude of resources around campus already exists for WMU students, the BUS 3000 transfer class helps bring essential elements of support together under one roof. Throughout the course, students engage with the college and develop critical proficiencies needed in business, while connecting with other students, mentors and employers. The class is led by career center staff who mentor students during this transitional phase, helping them adjust to the academic rigors of WMU, make meaningful connections and develop a strong foundation in academic and social engagement.

Among the many activities and assignments included in the course, Geralyn Heystek, director of the Zhang Career Center and coordinator for the class, says two projects provide essential opportunities for transfer students to engage with others and learn about themselves in a meaningful way. 

Knowing the importance of strengths to their own organization, Stryker supported a project that would help WMU business students in the transfer class uncover their own strengths using the CliftonStrengths assessment. 

“CliftonStrengths provides a great language to be able to understand yourself, and then to apply your unique talents in how you work, think, lead and interact with others,” says Tim Hiller, B.B.A.’08, MBA’12, and senior manager of talent management at Stryker. 

And communicating strengths as they launch careers is an important skill for students. “One of the goals we emphasize during the transfer class is preparing for the job search,” says Heystek. “CliftonStrengths gives students a personalized way to talk about what skills and innate abilities they can bring to an organization.”

In a case competition, Kellogg Company, a premier partner of the Zhang Career Center, developed a project where student teams are tasked with gaining an understanding of a problem, examining potential solutions and defending their decisions. 

“We want the students to expand their networks among their peers, practice critical thinking and develop a global mindset,” says Niki Ramirez, university relations manager at the Kellogg Company. “We seek to attract the best and brightest students, and we see this as another way to authentically invest in WMU students.”

While change is never easy, the transfer class is providing the needed time to acclimate to WMU, while helping new students develop lifelong connections and professional skills to make them marketable to potential employers all across the globe. 

“The reality is that it takes time for students to process all the resources,” says Heystek. “What is important and most rewarding is that we hear from students that they don’t realize how much they are investing in themselves until later when it all comes together, and they are ready to launch their careers.” 

As transfer student Ryan Maguire says, “The class pushes you to accept challenges beyond what you thought you could handle. And that is exactly how WMU grooms young business professionals.”