More than just a resume booster, the co-curricular record is a way to make your time at school more meaningful
Freya Wasteneys, Features Editor
Tucked away at the back of the Library building is the office of Cyndi Banks, CapU’s associate vice president for student success. Despite the room’s generous size, the space is cozy – books, pictures and knickknacks line the shelves and grace the desk. A round table stands off to the side, as if waiting for an intimate discussion. One half expects to hear a kettle coming to a boil. “You know, you arrive on campus, and you really make your own experience while you’re here,” said Banks. She refers to students, but you can tell she speaks from experience. Her gaze is piercing, insightful and slightly intimidating at first, but as she settles, she softens.
A quick Google will show that this woman, despite her petite stature, is a bit of a giant in the world of academics. She has written eight books, and comes to CapU from Northern Arizona University, where she served as dean, associate dean, associate vice-provost and as a professor of criminology, to name a few achievements.
“Sometimes it takes a little while for students to learn what they can do, and what [that learning] brings out in them,” said Banks, who admits that it also took her time to find her way. “That’s all part of the experience of getting involved. It’s to understand that you have impact, right? That you’re not just passive and reacting to life, that you’re able to take charge of your own life.” It’s a philosophy she seems to live by, if her office is any indicator.
These days, more than ever, employers are looking for more than just a certificate. Alongside Remy Marlatt, the student success facilitator for student engagement, Banks has tried to address this issue through the launch of the Co-Curricular Record (CCR).
Both are rather protective of their newly unveiled pet-project, which went live Nov. 19. They are quick to clarify that it’s not just a glorified resume. And no, it has nothing to do with Creedence Clearwater Revival. Rather, it’s a bit like a second transcript, but for students’ extracurricular activities. “It shows more of a balanced picture,” said Banks. “It’s not just what you’ve been involved in academically, but also outside the classroom, where learning takes place as well.”
“It encompasses most extracurriculars, but I wouldn’t say all just yet,” said Marlatt, who was involved in bringing the CCR to the University of Guelph, her alma mater. “It’s a lot of work to get everyone on board.”
The program is offered by two Canadian software companies, or if the technical infrastructure is in place, it can be can administered through the institution itself. Most universities in Canada already have a version of the CCR, and are upgrading to include a badging system.
While the University is late to adopt the system, Marlatt noted that this gives CapU an advantage, allowing it to be personalized specifically for the school. “It’s good [the software company] got out all the kinks,” she laughed.
Breaking down the narrative
As a commuter campus for most, the narrative at CapU seems revolve around the perception that there’s nothing to do, and that students are disengaged. Over the past few years, university faculty and the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) have done their best to combat this opinion.
“There’s a tremendous amount to do, but up until recently there was no central place to find out what there was to do,” said Banks. “And so that’s what the programing for the student hub is, with the events calendar, and the co-curricular record all coming at the same time.” The hope is that these resources will provide students with a centralized place to discover, ask questions, and get involved.
“It’s almost impossible to say for sure what the level of student involvement is because there’s been no way to track it,” said Marlatt “So we can have our perceptions of how many people came to an event, how many people are part of a club, but if we don’t have something in place that actually looks at or keeps track of how we’re actually doing, we can’t really know.”
In addition to providing students with the structure and incentive to get involved, the CCR is also a way for the university to track engagement, and map the school’s progress. “I do think that there’s been involvement, but it’s been in pockets, and there’s been no centralized way of knowing, and no tracking system, so we’re trying to address all those things through the Hub, the events calendar, and the CCR,” said Banks.
Bárbara Sudbrack is a Communications student at CapU. Sudbrack, who is pursuing a diploma, has been involved on campus since day one. This year, she is one of several students working at the Student Life Hub. “Being involved has made my experience here so much more meaningful,” she said. “Everything I’ve learned, all the people I met, all the experiences… my time at Cap would not be the same if I had just attended classes.”
Hailing from Porto Alegre in Brazil, Sudbrack has built a community through her extracurriculars. During her first semester at the school, she poured over the posters boards to find random workshops and free food events, and would then invite friends to tag along. Now in her last year at CapU, Sudbrack is passing on her accumulated knowledge to the future alumni. “We get about 20 students in a day,” she said. “It’s a mix of questions about directions or services or people inquiring about events they can get involved in… oh, and of course, ‘what is this CCR’ is a common one.”
“Some students do get involved, and they’re going to do that no matter what, but others need a little guidance sometimes, or it takes a little longer to find those interests,” said Marlatt.
“There’s a connection between recording those experiences and making them meaningful,” added Banks. “I mean they are meaningful, but now there’s a way of getting that recorded on a transcript that shows that you’ve been involved and that you’ve taken that interest.”
The CCR is broken up into five categories for participation: Leadership, Volunteering, Student Life, Awards and Training and Development. Part of the draw associated with the program is that for each valid extracurricular, students receive anywhere from one to four competencies. These are set out ahead of time, and align with career readiness factors as defined by National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Unlike a resume, where individuals are forced to come up with learning outcomes and infer their own value, the CCR keeps it simple – Search, Register, Add, Print.
According to a study by Kimberly Elias, which looked at the perceptions of employers regarding the CCR, the top five competencies employers look for are communication, professionalism, teamwork, critical thinking and collaboration. Findings showed that 49 per cent of employers see extracurricular activities as very important, and 86 per cent of respondents noted that it would be useful in the hiring process.
“You can also pick what you want to show,” said Marlatt, who was keen to note that the CCR helps structure employer interviews by providing talking points. “You can [print] your record an infinite amount of times, and decide what you want to show or not show to different employers.”
Of course, as new graduates, applicants look for any way to set themselves apart from the pack, but it also helps them become more aware of, or at least well versed in their own competencies. The program itself has been implemented in other Canadian universities since the 90s, but continues to evolve with feedback from employers. It aims to address the “job skills gap” which has been noted as a concern.
As students, it can be easy to get tunnel vision, especially when overwhelmed with weekly assignments. But despite the temptation to hide at home on the dark, rainy days of winter, participating in activities on campus can add purpose and direction to students’ time at school. It’s just a matter of finding a particular area of interest. “It’s not just all about academics, although they are obviously important,” stressed Banks.
“I think there are so many things going on at the same time and not everyone learns about everything that’s going on,” said Sudbrack. “I always felt there was something missing, something that would connect all these different options and really reach out to the students, but that’s why the hub is here, to gather all this information and help people to find what they will enjoy the most.”
While it’s still early days, Banks believes that there is more energy on campus, starting with the opening orientation, and it has been gaining momentum. “Of course, if you had no way of recording before, there’s no way you’re not going to have an increase,” said Banks. “So we expect an increase. This will be the baseline year, and from that we can see whether there have been improvements. It’s not just immediate, we have a sense that there is a change from the beginning of term, but we’re going to be collecting data over the long term – it’s definitely a long term project.”