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The University of Oregon is a public flagship research university and serves 18,000 undergraduates annually. Since 2015, student success has been one of the institutional priorities with a goal to increase the four-year graduation rate. Recognizing the increasing need for academic-to-career integration, in 2019 we launched a framework called Flight Paths. Flight Paths are structured around six thematic areas designed to facilitate early career exploration and intentional major selection. The university redesigned its academic advising model by integrating academic and career advising within the Flight Path framework and hired 23 professional advisors to replace a decentralized faculty advising model in the largest academic college at the university.

Average 2019-20 post-graduation salaries for underserved graduates were less than their nonunderserved peers

While we have made significant progress in increasing four-year graduation rates and built the institutional capacity in advising and career exploration, the equity gaps in student success outcomes persisted. The University of Oregon’s First Destination Survey in 2019-20 revealed that the average post-graduation salaries for underserved graduates were more than $15,000 lower compared to nonunderserved peers. We also recognize that simply graduating is not good enough; students must be well-educated and ready for a successful life after graduation. Our career support has been self-service, requiring a student to take the initiative to find, access, and benefit from it, which leaves underrepresented students (racial/ethnic minorities and Pell Grant recipients) at a disadvantage. This disconnect may be caused by a variety of factors, including access to social capital resources such as mentoring and professional networks. Unfortunately, these inequitable opportunities produce a compounding, multigenerational impact, resulting in fewer career opportunities, lower salaries, and less opportunity for future generations to access privileged, yet invisible, social benefits.

Integrating into the existing institutional infrastructure and networks, DucksRise — a six-month intensive cohort-based career development program — is designed to empower underrepresented minorities and low-income students through research internships and student experiences to achieve equitable success and opportunity. The program offers a hybrid career class that builds community, career competencies, and access to career-readiness opportunities, followed with tailored connections to networks such as alumni, cultural affinity groups, community, industry, workshops, professional development opportunities, wraparound coaching and support to secure opportunities. The program further advances integration of the career practices within the entire UO experience with a particular eye toward equity. Our approach is driven on wraparound and inclusive design to amplify the impact.