News - Education that Prepares for Evolution

Education that Prepares for Evolution

by Rachel Heston-Davis

Audra ClodfelterAs Audra (Newby ’09) Clodfelter made her way through undergrad years at Greenville College, she suspected she might join her writing skills with digital-age know-how in future jobs, but couldn’t foresee exactly what that would look like.

Clodfelter double-majored in communication and English literature, writing-intensive disciplines that seem far removed from digital concerns. Yet somewhere between writing online news for the college radio station, experimenting with blogs, playing with personal social media accounts and studying photography, Clodfelter says it “started to emerge in my mind that [digital work] was going to be part of my job. I didn’t realize to what extent.”

It turned out to be a large extent. Fast forward to 2016, and Clodfelter has just landed a job managing social media coverage, web site content and design for the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation. She also performs more traditional writing duties such as press releases and news summaries. It’s certainly a blend of skill sets.

The Ever-Evolving Career Landscape

Clodfelter remains grateful for her exposure to the digital world at GC. Her work with the radio station and in photography class, as well as rubbing shoulders with digital media majors, helped clue her in to the importance of online skills for today’s workforce.

Still, she says, there was no way for anyone to predict at the time exactly what a more digitally-integrated workforce would look like. Clodfelter studied at GC during a time when Facebook was only for college students, blogging happened mostly on MySpace, and photography classes still focused primarily on images for print. In Clodfelter’s experience, preparing for a future job was about gaining exposure to these disciplines and understanding how to adapt them to meet needs in an ever-changing job market.

GC: Versatility Training

Greenville College hopes to meet this marketplace need by preparing students through its Center for Visual Culture and Media Studies (CVCMS). Starting fall 2016, this virtual learning space will offer foundational courses in subjects related to writing, communication, visual media, and digital media. Students will learn to blend these disciplines rather than see them as separate pursuits.

Jake Amundson, chair of the art department and director of the CVCMS, explains that the idea of educating students in isolated skill sets—just writing, just design, just photography, just computer programming—is a model of education that’s “dissolving faster than institutions can keep up.” He sees the CVCMS as a vital step to ensure that GC students stay relevant in a changing career landscape. “It’s really equipping students, following our liberal arts tradition, to be versatile and branch out, not just think in one direction.”

In this way, the CVCMS both expands the reach of future graduates searching for jobs, and embraces the long heritage of GC’s liberal arts focus.

The Ability to Chase Purpose

Such versatility in job skills is helpful to people like Clodfelter, who never had a fixed idea of a “dream job” and has let her career path unfold and surprise her.

“All I’ve ever really known is that I have things that I love, and things that I’m good at doing,” Clodfelter says. “I just want to use my talents to help serve people or help make the world a better place.”

This allowed her to stay open and make a jump when the right opportunities arose. She spent four years working with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission promoting college access awareness and mentoring students through the FAFSA process. When the opportunity with Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation came along, she saw it as work she really believed in. Her range of skill sets drew attention and helped her land this fulfilling role. The Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation supports other organizations in their efforts toward community improvement, through administrative assistance, fundraising and grants, and other means.

“That’s kind of been my approach,” Clodfelter says of her career path. “How do my skills fit into this job, and does this job help people? If a job is something I’m going to exhaust myself trying to meet some corporate bottom line, that’s just not for me.”

She adds, “Even if it’s just a small part of the world, I’m helping to change that part of the world.”

Interdisciplinary educational programs like the CVCMS are supported in part by Greenville College’s Fund for Education Excellence. Click to donate online.

Learn more about GC alumni and students who blend a variety of disciplines:

Erin and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Job

Press Association Names Student Publication Vista as Finalist

Prepared to Prepare: GC Alumnus Talks About Transitioning from College to Career

You Majored in Storytelling?

Jesse Dart, Cultural Explorer

This story was published on February 02, 2016

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