Gettysburg College’s Guided Pathways Connects Students’ Co-Curricular Experiences and Career Goals
October 31, 2023

​Effective career skills development can be tricky for some traditional postsecondary institutions, but ACE member Gettysburg College is tackling this challenge through a new initiative that preserves the inquiry and exploration at the heart of a liberal arts education while preparing students for success in a competitive world.

This program, called the Gettysburg Approach, encourages students to discover their aspirations, then steers them toward campus experiences and resources that emphasize sets of enduring skills that advance their postgraduate goals.

The Gettysburg Approach incorporates two new programs: the Guided Pathways and Personal Advising Teams, both of which launched to all freshmen this fall. While participation is optional, 76 percent of the Class of 2027 opted into the programs.

The Guided Pathways initiative arose in response to ongoing feedback from students and alumni who struggled with describing how the knowledge and skills they gained in college prepared them for the next phase of their lives. Students also told Gettysburg that they were unaware of co-curricular opportunities relevant to their interests until late in their college careers, or that they were involved in too many activities and had difficulty determining which were most worthwhile.

Leaders at the college spent the past two years reaching out to students, alumni, and faculty and researching solutions to these problems.

Jim Duffy, associate dean of co-curricular education, said the new pathways will help students avoid the outcomes prior students had reported.

“The Guided Pathways will provide students with an intentional, holistic college experience, allowing them to articulate the values of their degree to potential graduate schools, employers, and other postgraduate experiences,” he told Gettysburg.

The college has developed five pathways: Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation; Global Citizenship and Intercultural Fluency; Justice and Community Change; Leadership, Teamwork, and Collaboration; and Career Development. All students in the program must complete the Career Development pathway as well as another pathway of their choice.

Upon entering college, Gettysburg assigns participants in Guided Pathways a Personal Advising Team consisting of a faculty adviser, co-curricular adviser, and career adviser. These advisers help students thoughtfully select courses and extracurricular activities that complement each other and serve their career goals. Students can also work with their advisers to design their own pathway.

“Students’ professional success is largely defined by the educational path they choose for themselves. At Gettysburg, they don’t have to make that choice alone,” said Anne Ehrlich, vice president for college life and dean of students.

Students progress through the Guided Pathways in three stages. As freshmen, they engage in “introductory experiences,” or sample activities from several pathways while they figure out what their goals and interests are. These activities can include writing an article for a student publication or volunteering at a community service event.

During their sophomore and junior years, students commit to a pathway and participate in an “exploratory experience,” like studying abroad or serving on a student group’s executive board, in that pathway.

Seniors then complete a “consequential experience,” a project with a significant impact on campus or beyond, in their chosen pathway. This could mean conducting research with a professor, directing a show for a student performance group, or completing a public service fellowship. Students also have access to competitive grants ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 to apply toward these experiences.

Throughout their time in college, students will meet with members of their advising teams to reflect on the experiences they choose and how they relate to their coursework and postgraduate ambitions, a pivotal feature of the program.

“Taking time to reflect is part of the organic process of learning,” Anne S. Douds, chair of Public Policy, told Gettysburg. “Reflection is about moving forward. It allows you to be better and stronger. That’s what the Guided Pathways are all about.”