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A Professional Edge

The future of work is upon us. As industry is looking toward algorithms and “bots” to gain efficiencies, higher education must consider how it is preparing the leaders of tomorrow with the necessary skills and competencies to add value. The Lundquist College of Business created the Professional Edge Program to help students compete in the marketplace.

The Professional Edge Program is a way for students to get hands-on-experience with the tools common in today’s workplace. In three-to-four-hour, non-credit-bearing short courses, students work with such tools as Google Analytics and Microsoft Excel under the guidance of an industry professional, putting the theory they learn in the classroom into practice.

“We reached out to alumni and industry professionals,” said Chris Bennett, senior associate director of career engagement with Mohr Career Services at the Lundquist College of Business, who helped launch the Professional Edge Program. “What the college heard in response was that Lundquist graduates are highly educated, and that we are uniquely positioned to offer even more real-world, innovative opportunities for students.”

In 2018, the Professional Edge Program’s first year, the Lundquist College invited industry professionals to bring their on-the-ground experience with such applications as Google Analytics into the classroom, allowing students to create reports, investigate questions, and interact with subject-matter experts in real time.

Other applications and subjects covered in the 2018 Professional Edge Program included Excel, QuickBooks, Design Thinking, Investment Plan Design and Presentation, Effective Storytelling for Business Presentations, and Tableau.

“Students gain solid business foundations and strategies in the classroom. What Professional Edge can give them is examples of how practitioners use those foundations in everyday business environments,” said Jessica Best, senior associate director of career strategy in Mohr Career Services, who manages the Professional Edge Program.

From the start, student interest in the Professional Edge Program was strong.

“Students are really diving in,” Bennett said.

In the first year, those who enrolled in the program’s short courses were a mix of undergraduate and graduate students from the Lundquist College and across campus, including the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Journalism and Communication, College of Design, and School of Law.

The Professional Edge Program is seeing significant support from corporate and donor partners as well.

“When we talk to employers and donors, this tends to be one of the things they really light up about,” Best said.

“Representatives from private business are eager to interact with students in a more substantive way,” Bennett added. “They see this as part of being a responsible corporate citizen, and students value that real-world perspective.”

And although there’s a long list of software and applications Best and Bennett would like to see included in future Professional Edge short courses, they both hope to see some “soft-skills” covered as well.

“Things like managing relationships,” Best said. “But also, practice giving compelling persuasive presentations. Things that are really important to launching any business career.”

If you are you an expert in a particular application or business process, and you are interested in sharing this expertise with students, Best would like to hear from you—no teaching experience required.

“We’re prepared to take their knowledge as practitioners and translate it into a compelling learning experience for students,” Best said.

Contact Jessica Best at bestje@uoregon.edu.

Learn More about Professional Edge

—William Kennedy