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Alverno College Part of a Pilot Program to Assess Students’ ‘Essential Employable Qualities’

November 29, 2017

Graduates line up outside the Pitman Theatre.

Alverno College was selected to participate in a national pilot program examining the employability of college students after graduation, a program that aligns with Alverno’s internationally admired abilities-based curriculum that’s been in practice since the early 1970s.

As participants in the Essential Employability Qualities (EEQ) Pilot program led by the Quality Assurance Commons for Higher and Postsecondary Education (the QA Commons), Alverno and 14 other North American higher education institutions are co-creating criteria leading to a certification process that will promote and recognize EEQ-building programs.

EEQ Pilot participants are exploring ways to assess higher education programs that intentionally:

  • develop essential employability qualities in students
  • engage students and employers in quality assurance
  • assure that graduates are prepared for the world of work after program completion
  • communicate openly and accurately with the public

“Alverno has an international reputation for developing innovative approaches to student learning,” said Carole Chabries, Ph.D., dean of Alverno’s School of Adult Learning and New Initiatives. “This pilot brings national attention to the importance of what we’ve known and practiced for decades: that college-level learning outcomes can prepare students to participate in their academic disciplines and excel in the workplace, leading to new approaches that serve the needs of learners, employers and society.”

Alverno centered its curriculum around the 8 Abilities after feedback from industry partners gathered in the early 1970s indicated the types of skills college graduates should possess to be professionally successful. Alverno’s Adult Evening and Online program in Business, a flexible program for adult learners who complete classes both in-person and online, will serve as the incubator for the year-long pilot endeavor.

On September 14 and 15, EEQ Pilot participants met for the first time in Atlanta.

“Work as we know it is changing, so it’s increasingly challenging — and important — to ensure higher education experiences appropriately prepare graduates for the 21st century,” said Ralph Wolff, founder and president of the QA Commons.

According to a 2015 Gallup-Purdue Index report, although 98% of chief academic officers rate their institutions as very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the world of work, only 11% of business leaders strongly agree that graduating students have the skills and competencies they need.

The essential employability qualities that EEQ Pilot participants seek to develop in graduates include:

  • People skills such as collaboration, teamwork and cross-cultural competence
  • Problem-solving abilities such as inquiry, critical thinking and creativity
  • Professional strengths such as communication, work ethic and technological agility

“Participating in the EEQ pilot gives us the opportunity to sharpen and deepen our own practices,” said Chabries. “We are excited to work and learn alongside peers who share our belief that college-level learning outcomes can prepare students to successfully integrate their academic studies, their careers and the fullness of their lives.”

Pilot participants are diverse in the discipline, learning format and degree levels they offer; the types of institutions they belong to, whether public, private, for-profit or faith-based; and the student bodies they serve, such as first-generation students, traditional age or continuing education students, commuters or residential students.

The EEQ Pilot is a project of the QA Commons, an independent, nonprofit organization devoted to exploring, developing and leading approaches to quality assurance that serve the needs of learners, employers and society. The QA Commons and the EEQ Pilot are initially funded through the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) under a grant from the Lumina Foundation. Learn more and follow this work at