The Compass: Transforming the Future for St. Kate’s

St. Kate’s is introducing a new guided experience for students: The Compass!

The Compass Experience is an integrated set of academic and co-curricular activities that will assist students in identifying and responding to their professional interests as well as fulfilling their societal mission. It is a program of academic, professional, and leadership activities built to prepare students interested in pursuing a career path away from the classroom. 

Career Development plays a major role in the structure of the Compass experience and what it will look like. Provost Thomas plays an integral role in the development of the Compass, due to her focus on the student experience from the start of their college career at St. Kate’s.

Provost Anita Thomas – The Driving Force Behind the Compass

Provost Anita Thomas has been at St. Kate’s for three years, and before that she was the Dean of Applied Behavioral Sciences at Indiana University. She has also worked as a Chief Academic Officer and in Student Engagement. It is her responsibility to consider the student experience holistically during their time at St. Kate’s.

The Provost’s primary responsibilities include supervising all aspects of student experiences and serving as a member of the senior leadership team. She is in charge of not just academic policies, but also of assisting in the implementation of policies across the institution. Provost Thomas collaborates with the finance and human resources departments to promote the campaign’s progress.

As someone whose favorite part of her job is interacting with students, the Provost does weekly walkarounds to get the students’ feedback on the curriculum and activities that are implemented at St. Kate’s to increase student engagement. 


The Compass & Why it Matters

Provost Thomas shared details about the foundation of the Compass, what this will mean for students and how she sees it impacting St. Kate’s. The Compass is made up of a team of the Provost, staff, and students to explore ways to improve the student experience.

This committee examined what we do very well on campus, including student experience, service learning, honors, and competitive fellowships. St. Kate’s offers many high-impact opportunities for students. As they considered the programs available, it became evident that a form of packaged experience for students was required to make it more accessible to the students

“The compass came as a way to think about that package. Wanting to be very intentional about helping students decide what they want to do when they leave St Kate’s, but also provide the opportunities to help them do that. “If we are not intentional, if we don’t have an office for these things to come together, if we are not outlining a path, we are really hindering our students’ success.”

The Compass walks students through the student experience. It allows the student to create a path to follow so that by the fourth year all the opportunities available on campus will be maximized to the fullest. 

Core Qualities of the Career Experience

The core qualities of the career experience within the Compass ultimately come down to the Career Competencies and the possible career outcomes. Employers are looking for students to articulate the skills that they’ve learned and show they have reflected on them.

Understanding these competencies is important because, more and more, job roles are becoming less about the title of the role, and more about the skills or competencies that the students can bring to the particular position. 

“The goal with the compass is that students can identify particular competencies and skills they are developing to be able to talk about them with an employer…Giving concrete skills, naming them, helping students see the opportunities they have had to build on them will be important in assisting students to be more career-ready.” 

Defining a “Meaningful Life”

A Meaningful Life is really a life experience that is fulfilling in many areas whether it is through a student’s career, family, volunteer opportunity, or civic engagement. The Meaningful Life aspect of the Compass is for students to think more holistically about their experience. St. Kate’s is focused on not only their students’ academic success but also their personal development. 

The Meaningful Life experience has three main components: a vocational calling, spiritual formation, and social justice orientation. 

The vocational calling component is tied to career development and an individual’s field of work. The spiritual formation aspect is really about focusing on identity development and allowing students to engage in reflection. Social justice orientation focuses on creating an understanding of equity and inclusion in both everyday life as well as the workplace. 

The goal of the Compass is to find ways to help students connect who they are as a person and their career aspirations or passion areas. One of the activities in the Meaningful Life experience is a series of reflections. There will be an underlying outcome for every course that will be easily connected for students. 

Defining Leadership

Leadership is inextricably linked to a sense of occupational calling and passion. It’s the chance to get involved in a cause or an activity at work in order to help the organization, society, community, or even your family in some way. 

At St. Kate’s, that sense of power and transformation is also seen through a social justice lens. Thinking deeply about a topic, seeing a need, and devising strategies to meet that need, as well as putting those strategies into action and collaborating with others.

The idea of leadership goes back to the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the whole sense of Le Puy, where the six sisters went out seeing a need in the community and went back to the kitchen to develop ways to address the need and change the community 

“It really is seeing a need, feeling a passion about it, developing a method or some way to approach to solve the need, and working with others to do that.”

The Direction of Higher Education

In the future, the higher education experience will need to focus more on packaged types of opportunities like the Compass. Strong emphasis on the skills and competencies that students have allows them to be more marketable when they leave St. Kate’s

Employers are wanting students to be ready for jobs that are not in existence yet and being marketable with their competencies is a step in the right direction. 

The Evolution of the Compass

The Compass has gotten some changes to it already as it is supposed to be an organic experience with student input and feedback as it’s created. 

From the beginning, there have been four elements to the Compass: academic discipline and engaged learning, the Meaningful Life experience, career development opportunities, and leadership. There is an app in the works for students to be able to track and reflect on their experience with the Compass. Also, for the first time, St. Kate’s launched a TRW lab section this year that really focused on the component of career exploration by using PathwayU, Academic Advising, and Linkedin.


By Emma Seehafer
Emma Seehafer Career Assistant