St. Catherine University awarded $2 million grant from U.S. Department of Education

Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) grant supports new career and future readiness plan

St. Catherine University announced today it has been awarded more than $2 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Education for a Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) grant. St. Kate’s will use this grant to support a Career and Future Readiness plan that will provide undergraduate students with the knowledge, skills, and experience to matriculate successfully and graduate career-ready in their chosen field, with the financial acumen needed to reduce debt and make fiscally sound choices.

“Career planning and readiness is a key element of student learning and success,” said ReBecca Koenig Roloff ‘76, president of St. Catherine University. “There is a great and growing demand for a talented and skilled workforce in Minnesota and nationally. Preparing our students for these careers at every step of their academic experiences is one way we educate our students to lead and influence while honoring our commitment to excellence and opportunity.”

St. Kate’s welcomes a rich diversity of students. At the start of the 2019 academic year, 38% of undergraduates are students of color, making St. Kate’s one of the most culturally diverse private institutions in the state. Among the baccalaureate degree seekers, 31% are first-generation, meaning they are the first in their families to pursue higher education. A little over one-third — 36% of 2019 undergraduate students — receive Pell grants due to low family incomes.

Lower-income students must work to make ends meet, leading to challenges in both affording and making time for high-impact, critical career skill-building opportunities like internships or other work-based experiences unless they are paid. Yet these opportunities also contribute to student retention and are valued by graduates and employers alike.* When St. Kate’s conducted its 2018 One- and Five-Year Alumni Survey, respondents from the College For Women ranked internships/fieldwork as the most beneficial to their post-graduate lives. They ranked opportunities to enhance leadership skills second. Internships are just as valuable from the employer perspective: in 2018, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that internship experience in a related field is a top factor in candidate selection.  

“This grant coincides with and complements several initiatives already in motion at St. Kate’s to enhance career services for students,” said Drew Melendres, senior vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at St. Kate’s. “These efforts will allow us to strengthen career awareness and planning across the student life cycle, engage more parents and families in career awareness and planning, as well as expand paid internship opportunities for our students.”

The SIP grant will also support professional development for faculty to learn best practices for infusing career and professional skills into programs of study and at the course level, in alignment with National Association of Colleges and Employers career competencies.

“This grant is a welcome boost for efforts already underway to enhance career readiness in the liberal arts,” said Tarshia Stanley, PhD, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences. “Liberal arts students and graduates are in demand for their critical thinking, communications, and systems thinking abilities. These new efforts will promote the fact that students graduate with these skills, which are needed and valued in a wide variety of today’s professions, while also teaching students to articulate these skills to prospective employers as career competencies.”

The Career and Future Readiness grant plan has four overarching goals that will ultimately improve enrollment, retention, and graduation rates:

  1. Expand career services, with emphasis on early and frequent student and parent engagement and work-based experiences aligned with in-demand industry sectors to foster purpose-driven matriculation and employment pipelines.

  1. Launch an integrated learning initiative, Career Readiness in the Liberal Arts, that embeds career-specific skill building and work-related experiences into the liberal arts curriculum so that students graduate with demonstrated career competencies.

  1. Strengthen and expand financial literacy and economics education to empower students with the knowledge needed to make sound economic decisions in college and for a lifetime through enhancements to the University’s Money Management Program and the Minnesota Center for Diversity in Economics.

  1. Invest in University infrastructure to build corporate and foundation giving, which will sustain the Career and Future Readiness initiative and other programming key to student success into the future.

“Time has proven that the idea of pursuing a degree to automatically get a job or career falls short of reality,” said Stanley. “Our adoption of integrated career readiness and preparation aligns perfectly with how we apply the liberal arts throughout a St. Kate’s education: when done well, students are already on their chosen career path when they graduate.” 


*source: Kuh, George D. (2008). “High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter.” AAC&U, Washington, D.C.