Success Center : a center for the development of soft skills among Universidad Panamericana students
García Higuera, María del Carmen
Repellin Moreno, Adriana Agnes
Matienzo Cáceres, Yanira
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Higher education institutions have sought to develop in students the knowledge and abilities that prepare them to a particular profession in the current job market and to shape personality traits necessary through life (Shakir, 2009). Graduates should not only be experts in a certain field, but also they need mature personalities, with a well-balanced, rounded off education. Many colleges and universities are focused in promoting students with the highest ethical standards and a strong sense of responsibility for society. In its mission statement, Universidad Panamericana (UP) expresses these values, convinced that only college graduates with these abilities will help Mexico raise its capacity for professional competencies, creativity and innovation. However, a gap has been identified between the skills college graduates have and those needed to succeed at the job place (Schultz, 2008). Under this consideration, UP proposed two venues as an effort to assure a learning model that integrates soft skills. First, a proposal to work with professors in order to include soft skills into curricula; and second, the Success Center (SC), as a specific initiative to address student competencies outside the classroom. This paper describes the experience of creating the SC and the results obtained during its first year of operation.The SC initiated in the spring of 2016 with two projects: the first project was a logo design student contest for the center. The final design is used as the SC official logo. This project helped students not only develop awareness about the new center, but also about the need to acquire soft skills for their lives after college. The second project was a survey conducted among students to identify the perceived needs of attitudes and competencies for their integral development. The survey was available to the students in different open spaces throughout the university for two days and was accessible online for two weeks. 1,321 students from all disciplines answered the survey. Results include time management, oral and written communication, critical and creative thinking, negotiation and personal finance as important soft skills to develop among students. Based on the survey, the SC proposed 16 projects to be released the next academic year. These projects seek to address students in different stages of their college experience. Moreover, SC team up with academic colleges in order to attract more students and to develop skills and competencies for the specific professional fields. In addition, SC worked with other centers inside the university such as the Center for Innovation in Education and student organizations, in order to better understand student needs. During the first year, nearly 12% of the undergraduate population participated in at least one project experience, and most of them are now ambassadors for the services provided by the SC. Encouraged by the first year student participation, 18 new projects will be offered in next year with follow-up tests of the skills acquired. Initiatives like the SC are thus documented as an example of how to enhance soft skills in students in order for them to compete in a globalized world. ©2017, Iated Academy S.L.