Over 100 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada have contacted the University of Iowa about implementing IOWA GROW® at their institutions. IOWA GROW® has been recognized in numerous books and articles for its accomplishments in helping students foster learning, build connections, and encourage reflection.
The results of this brief but repeated intervention are striking. GROW students are more likely than other student workers on Iowa’s campus to report that their jobs helped them improve their writing, speaking, and time-management skills and that the jobs also challenged them to interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures (Grose, 2014). Since other research (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005) reveals that on-campus work is a more positive predictor of degree attainment than working off campus, programs like Iowa GROW hold the potential to contribute to both individual student learning and also broader institutional goals.
Peter Felten, John N. Gardner, Charles C. Schroeder, Leo M. Lamber, & Betsy O. Barefoot
The book praises Mount Holyoke College for its Making the Lynk program, a faculty-driven career-to-curriculum initiative, along with the University of Iowa’s Guided Reflection on Work. That program requires supervisors and student workers to meet twice per semester for a conversation framed around questions such as, “How is this job fitting in with your academics?” or “Can you give me a couple examples of things that you are learning here at work that you will be using in your future profession?”
Samantha Budzyn, a junior at the University of Iowa, wants to work in community or behavioral health after she graduates, so landing a campus job at the wellness office seemed like an obvious career move. One month after she began the 20-hour-per-week job, her supervisor sat her down and asked her to reflect on how, exactly, her academic courses influenced her job, and vice versa. The questions were part of a systematic effort at Iowa to make campus work experiences more meaningful by getting students to link the often-mundane hours spent on the job with their broader academic and career goals. The program, called Iowa GROW (for Guided Reflection on Work), also reflects a growing awareness in academe that institutions need to better prepare students for life after college.
But with a little effort, work can be used by staff and faculty at other institutions to help students realize the practical relevance of their studies. Among the more advanced efforts in this area is the Guided Reflection on Work (GROW) initiative at the University of Iowa, which uses brief, structured conversations between work supervisors and their student employees to help students reflect on and make connections between their studies and work on campus. Some connections are more natural than others, such as a graphic design major working on the campus union marketing team; others require more thought to get students to see how what they are studying has personal meaning to their job and other areas beyond the classroom.
George Kuh and Ken O'Donnell
Given that policy makers and institutional leaders are looking for low- or no-cost ways to improve student success—especially for part-time and older students and from historically underrepresented groups—it's high time we look for ways to use the work experience to enrich rather than detract from learning and college completion.
Skills developed from student work in a variety of contexts offer myriad possible outcomes, but these outcomes are not always intentionally developed. One model with tremendous promise is the University of Iowa's "Iowa Grow" program, which uses brief, structured conversations between student employees and their supervisors to help students connect the skills and knowledge they are gaining in the classroom with their student work, and vice versa (Iowa Grow, n.d.).
Adam Peck, David Hall, Catherine Cramp, Justin Lawhead, Kristal Fehring, and Teresa Simpson
Some large institutions have managed to implement smaller aspects of the campus-work experience. The University of Iowa’s GROW program, for example, organizes structured, one-on-one conversations between supervisors and students that help make connections between students’ work in the classroom and their jobs outside it.
The University of Iowa views those jobs as an important addition to an education. Others have recognized that campus activities like fraternities and even dance marathons help students learn how to work with others. "But we neglect a large body of students who spend a lot of time in campus jobs - working in food services, as receptionists, lifeguards, whatever," says Sarah Hansen, the university's director of assessment and strategic initiatives.
What students can on their jobs and integrate with their academic work is how to communicate, how to work with people who are different, how to be flexible, how to resolve conflicts. Job superviosrs are asked to meet with student workers twice a semester and ask them to ponder four questions: How is this job fitting in with your academics? What are you learning here that's helping you in school? What are you learning in class that can apply here at work? Can you give me a couple of examples of things you've learned here that you think you'll use in your chosen profession?
Adopting/Adapting IOWA GROW® on your campus?
Please contact Sarah Hansen (sarah-Hansen@uiowa.edu) or Teri Schnelle (firstname.lastname@example.org) about use of the registered trademark IOWA GROW®. We can provide guidelines on trademark use and on naming your program.