Introducing a Bold New Concept in Higher Education: Professional Career Escalators™

Initiative supports two key missions: public service and workforce readiness
Students on an escalator

A centerpiece initiative of the UMKC Forward plan will create the university’s signature Professional Career Escalators™ program. This innovative student success initiative includes a unique system of personalized support and services to propel students from their academic studies to good-paying careers.

University officials believe the combined features and goals of the program make it unlike anything being offered at any other college or university in the United States.

“The escalators are designed to engineer the college experience to support career attainment from undergraduate through professional training,” said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal.

The program includes signature student experiences and support programs, such as living-learning student cohorts, an entry-bridge program and advising teams with expertise in specific professions. Scholarships and other forms of financial aid will be part of the program as well.

“Professional salaries are a first step to building wealth and escaping generational poverty, and our community needs substantially more educated professionals to meet our regional workforce demand.”– 

Chancellor Mauli Agrawal

Curriculum in the escalators will include for-credit applied experiences. This could include service learning, internships, or what Agrawal calls a “metromester” – like a semester abroad model, but spent in the city volunteering with a nonprofit, working with a local government agency or interning for a business.

The escalators will be open to all admitted students, but is built on research and best practice that support UMKC goals to increase retention and graduation rates of underrepresented, first-generation and Pell-eligible students.

The initiative supports two key missions of the university: public service and career readiness.

“Professional salaries are a first step to building wealth and escaping generational poverty,” Agrawal said. “And our community needs substantially more educated professionals to meet our regional workforce demand.”

Tom Mardikes, professor of theatre and chair of the UMKC Faculty Senate, said the escalators are flexible enough to work well for students who decide to change career paths during their college career.

“Many students start at UMKC to discover their major,” he said. “More, however, come with a specific path in mind. Regardless, things always change.  What I like about the Professional Career Escalators™ program is that it serves as a visual metaphor for all of us — students, faculty and staff — on how to craft the means to deal creatively with that change.”

Karen King, chair of the UMKC Staff Council, said the escalators are a key element of the UMKC Forward goal of “realizing the best UMKC possible — the version of Kansas City’s University which will effectively meet the needs of the whole community.”

Staff will play an important role in executing the escalator plan.  She said: “We will be working hand in hand with faculty and administration from the first steps of the escalator, through the student’s college experience and subsequently, to a rewarding career where they step off the escalator with pride.”

Initial professional focus areas for the escalators, based on workforce need and personal career opportunity, include healthcare, education, engineering/business and law/justice. Others will be added in the future in response to workforce demand trends.

The implementation schedule for Professional Career Escalators™ calls for hiring a director in Summer 2021. That director, in collaboration with working groups, will finalize escalators programming over that academic year and prepare for the official launch in Fall Semester 2022.

Published: Mar 18, 2021