smart elect flyer

In an effort to increase students’ career options after graduation, the College of Language and Letters launched a campaign that is helping students identify elective courses that will complement their degree. The campaign is called “Smart Elect.”

Recent studies from Burning Glass, a consulting firm that evaluates thousands of job boards across the world, have shown that students with degrees in liberal arts could double their job options simply by adding a technology based skill to their degree. This is done through strategically planning out elective courses.

Two years ago, Scott Galer, who at the time was serving as dean of the College of Language and Letters, and Susan Garner, advising coordinator for the same college, came up with the campaign to introduce the simple concept to encourage students to bridge their academic skills to their desired careers.

The initiative launched first in the Academic Advising Office for the College of Language and Letters, where advisors would spark conversation with students about elective choices.

“We try and help students understand that they can be intentional with their elective credits,” Garner said. “Students often don’t realize that elective courses can and should be used to complement their degree, not just to take fun courses.”

Recently, other advising centers have begun working together to adopt Smart Elect as a shared practice.

“We recognized that students in other majors could benefit from liberal arts courses, so it goes both ways. Now is a good time for faculty to work with their college advisor to identify those courses and to help students figure out the additional knowledge and skills that will help give breadth to their program of study,” Garner said. “The goal is that every department would work the same way to help guide students to courses that would be of assistance in their choice of major.”

This principle was reiterated by President Eyring in his Spring 2018 Devotional address.

“Think about a college education that includes a combination of so-called ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills. Ideally, one component of your degree—either a major, a minor, or a certificate—will be directly related to a career you find attractive.  But you are more likely to be recognized as a natural leader if you complement that set of ‘hard’ skills with crucial ‘soft’ ones, such as empathizing, brainstorming, negotiating, and coaching,” Eyring said.

To help students identify courses that would add value to their degree, Garner recommends faculty members evaluate their current posted course descriptions to determine how they could be made more clear as to what hard or soft skills students will gain by taking the course.

Faculty may also consider their course descriptions from an employer perspective, while considering students both in and outside that major.  

For example, many non-business students could benefit from taking B215: Spreadsheet Analysis, or many business students could benefit from taking professional writing courses.  Faculty may also consider: would non-major students be successful in these courses without prerequisite courses?

Lastly, Garner would encourage each department to identify an area(s) of study that could add breadth to their degree programs, and give students more opportunity to increase their job options.

For more information about Smart Elect, view the video found at