Presentation of Career Readiness at the American Economic Association Annual Conference

American Economic Association’s Committee on Economic Education (AEACEE) is a standing committee of the American Economic Association that has been in existence in one form or another since 1955. The mission of the Committee is to improve the quality of economics education at all levels: pre-college, college, adult, and general education.

Dr. Smirnova, Economics, and Dr. Kalnova, Communication, were selected to present their pedagogical innovation on career preparation at the undergraduate level at the Committee’s sponsored poster session at the 2023 annual AEA conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The pilot career module that Smirnova/Kalnova team developed for the UConn students in their respective departments is called “Classroom Use of Public Data to Inform Students’ Career Choices”.

The motivation for this initiative came from the National Alumni Career Mobility Survey (NACM) 2020, which emphasized that receiving helpful career information during an undergraduate degree is a significant contributor to educational satisfaction as well as to career pathway preparation. Proper knowledge of career-pertaining information plays an important role in economic mobility and career satisfaction. This project stems from the premise that career choice could be explored by students using data from legitimate sources and guidance from an undergraduate course instructor.

The Smirnova/Kalnova instructional module uses data of the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook to guide students in the exploration of their major and career choice. The innovation is in the use of the BLS data on occupations as a base for a series of assignments integrating the data analysis skills with the critical thinking about one’s potential career choice trajectory. The aim of the exercise is to develop several competencies for career readiness identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) such as Career & Self Development, Critical Thinking, Equity & Inclusion, and Technology.

In line with the Career Leadership Collective, this exercise helped students to 1) understand career opportunities; and 2) create a plan for their career. This strategy was used successfully in several courses in Economics and Communication. The results show that (1) the exercise helped students navigate their career path by making meaningful data-driven decisions; (2) students (a) gained confidence in working with big data, (b) applied (and developed further) critical thinking and analytical skills, and (c) utilized data-driven approach for career choice exploration.

Dr. Smirnova presented the poster in New Orleans (see photo). She received many good suggestions and ideas from attendees. The next step of this collaborative effort will be assessment of the career module effectiveness on student’s knowledge and satisfaction with their career path after receiving the IRB approval.

Photo: Dr. Smirnova with the Career Preparation poster at the American Economic Association annual conference on January 7, 2023. New Orleans, Louisiana.

By Natalia V. Smirnova
Natalia V. Smirnova Associate Professor In Residence