A Q&A with Lisa Kastor, formerly of the College of Wooster
Lisa Kastor, former Director of Career Planning at the College of Wooster, a leading liberal arts college in Wooster, OH, spent 35 years working in career services before retiring in 2021. A leader in her field, Lisa guided students with a holistic, reflective approach to encourage students to continuously develop professionally and to pursue meaningful careers throughout their lives.
Lisa and the College of Wooster partnered with uConnect in 2020 to create the Scots Virtual Career Hub. Below, Lisa shares her experience with managing their virtual career center as a small team, creating an inclusive and accessible platform, partnering with other groups on campus, and how she led her team to evolve their content for a digital space.
Read on to hear more of Lisa’s perspective!
1. Can you share why you did what you did as Director of Career Planning, your background, and the mission of your work?
I worked at Wooster for 25 years, and I had a great love for the liberal arts and how those institutions holistically educate. I also loved watching the growth and development of a student.
As a career center, we took a developmental advising lens. I worked to take students from where they were then to where they wanted to be. Reflection was at the heart of our work. We guided students to integrate their academic persona and their professional goals. It was important to draw students to a place where they could talk about what they’d learned from their experiences, both in and out of the classroom. There was a shared responsibility between my role as I worked with students, and the students as they worked with me.
2. What made you commit to a digital-first approach to engaging students and your community?
COVID accelerated the need for a virtual career center, but there was already a perfect storm for us. We were contending with the thought of how to utilize the resources that we already had available, and our ratio of office size to students. Before we had a virtual career center, it was not possible to reach all 2,000 students in the way that we wanted and needed to.
We thought, ‘What can we do, digitally, to make the tools we want to provide for students available 24/7? How can we design a platform that is easily accessible, inclusive, available, and meets the needs of our student body?’ Partnering with uConnect allowed us to integrate our resources into one virtual career center.
3. How did uConnect stand out as the technology solution to facilitate this shift. How did uConnect support that transition?
We knew at the beginning of our partnership with uConnect that there would be a lot of work up front to ensure that we delivered the content in the best possible way. But we also knew uConnect was an amazing platform that is more than just ‘career.’ We didn’t need a complete map of what we wanted the platform to become, and the uConnect platform configuration team helped us cruise through the process. We also had the student perspective of how the platform should be designed to encourage exploration.
I work best when I’m able to build relationships, and that was a critical component of my work. With uConnect, we had a relationship with their team that allowed us to always have someone to advise us and help us build the best possible virtual career center.
4. How did your staff roles transition to support the focus on digital creation and engagement? How did you motivate and assist your team?
When it came to creating the Scots Career Hub, all staffers were challenged and all were involved in the design and creation. Within the course of a semester, all of our team members became comfortable with using the system. The team was forced to think about how they used resources and to transition from having PDFs saved on desktops and physical handouts for students to creating content on our uConnect platform. The management of the platform was relatively easy after our launch.
It took some time to develop roles within our team to help us effectively use uConnect. We set aside specific times for team members to use the free external blog library and to assess where those blogs could go on the platform. We always wanted our platform to be as dynamic as possible, and we continuously reviewed the platform to see what areas could become more dynamic. We knew that as we continued to use the platform, other areas would continue to evolve and feature other content types.
About a year after launch, managing the platform took about four hours a month. We eventually hired students to assist with the publishing of content, since having an understanding of the student body and their needs was a huge component of our work.
5. How did you advocate for resources and budget? How did you overcome objections from faculty, the career team, and other stakeholders?
Carefully. When advocating for funding, I wanted to have a full perspective of the initiative I was advocating for and the benefit it would have for students.
I spoke with dozens and dozens of donors—I like to call it a “friend-raiser,” not a fundraiser. It’s so important to show enthusiasm, as well as the benefit to students when having conversations with donors.
When I spoke about uConnect, I described it as a platform for all that can reach every student. I showcased that and connected our platform to the College of Wooster’s strategic initiatives, such as career exploration and diversity, equity, and inclusion. I also used it to benchmark us against other institutions to see where we stood.
Part of getting funding for anything is figuring out who your champions are on campus and then working alongside them. Who are the key players, and are they on board?
6. Speaking of key players, how did you engage faculty and other members of campus outside of the career center? How did engaging them improve/streamline your work?
We had champions in faculty and staff across campus who spearheaded strategic initiatives. These initiatives, one of which was focused on career exploration, could easily be included in our platform.
Within campus offices, we were all very collaborative and used each other as a network.
A lot of our faculty already understood the importance of our work and our uConnect platform. I knew that the more people who knew about the tools we had available, the better. I also planned to feature student clubs on campus using uConnect’s organizations content type to continue to broaden our reach.
We had different departments, campus centers, and offices who reached out to us directly to see how they could incorporate and integrate their work into our platform, including admissions.
7. What were the outcomes of your new approach?
Part of the success of our uConnect platform came directly from the students. We built the Scots Career Hub into our advising process and showed it to nearly every student we advised. The students’ reaction to seeing the platform was priceless.
The way students were navigating our uConnect platform was very different from our previous website. Another part of our success was how easy it was to find our signature resources. We had also been very careful with the rhetoric we used in our platform navigation to increase accessibility.
We also saw great success with sending the platform to the faculty chair of every department. We saw a tremendous response from faculty and campus partners and then saw them engage with our platform.
Ultimately, our students were very happy with the spaces we built, and we enjoyed the process of continuing to develop them!
After retiring from the College of Wooster, Lisa started her own business called Paths to Purpose which specializes in career coaching, StrengthsFinder coaching (Lisa is a Gallup certified coach), and more. Learn more by connecting with her on LinkedIn.