As with all organizations, Wheaton College benefits by the presence of reliable data for its strategic planning and decision-making processes. That’s why Opus conducts research on key programs that impact student vocational preparation.
Internships are increasingly emphasized as important aspects of a competitive undergraduate education, adding an edge needed in a job market flooded with college degrees. Indeed, as career services offices and parents both advocate with their students to use their summers meaningfully in internships, scholars also seem to be paying more attention to various aspects of internships and their impacts.
While we have a clear picture of general benefits and best-practices of internships, there is little written on the particular outcomes (various vocational, social, and spiritual outcomes) that can be expected from incorporating certain elements (such as involvement of supervisors, curricular integration, clear objectives, structured debriefing, etc.) Finding and articulating these correlations will lay an evidence-based foundation for designing strong internship programs in the future.
The research agenda includes surveys of the junior and senior classes about their internship experiences, motives for taking internships and outcomes. We also conduct a qualitative study of students during their internships and face-to-face interviews upon completion.
Vocation in College Study
Opus is an official partner for the Vocation in College Study, a longitudinal multi-institution research project based at Taylor University. This research addresses problems of perplexity, anxiety and confusion experienced by students when considering vocation and career. Results will be used to better understand our students and to design outcomes and interventions appropriate to their needs.
Wheaton Syllabus Review
In year two, Opus began a syllabus review to audit Wheaton’s present curriculum to identify the ways in which vocational themes are already embedded, giving Opus a chance to highlight and celebrate vocational best practices and models already in place. This study also seeks to identify gaps in the current curriculum, including areas in which Faith and Work integration can be better executed, which gives Opus a chance to supplement where appropriate. One hundred syllabi have been reviewed and coded for vocational concepts as well as marketable skills outcomes. Reports, case studies and faculty guides are being developed and will be shared with faculty at strategic moments throughout the year.