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How the Kroc School Is Breaking Down the Boundaries of Conventional Career Development

Craig Zelizer

December 14, 2018

This is a sponsored post on PCDNetwork

The definition of careers is evolving as the nature of work changes. Where once there used to be a predictable path into the professional world and a clear image of what a career entailed, these days there’s much less certainty. If you’re a current or prospective student soon to enter the workforce, preparation is paramount, as is the institution that supports you along the way.

The Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies (Kroc School) at the University of San Diego believes this career evolution requires the usage of non-traditional approaches to prepare students to adapt to, and be prepared for, careers that don’t exist yet. In other words, we need to be innovative, agile and dynamic in supporting students with professional planning.

A Closer Look at Professional Planning at the Kroc School

How do you prepare people in a broad and ambiguous field, like social innovation or peacebuilding, for a career? The Kroc School has redesigned how career planning for our graduate programs works. Gone is the traditional “roadmap” to success — at the Kroc School, we aim for the stars.

In 2018, we launched our “skymap” (below) as a multifaceted approach for students’ professional planning. Instead of making a traditional, linear roadmap, students make a skymap where they chart their own constellations in professional growth. This fluid, non-linear model allows students to reframe how they plan for their careers and their lives, building off of foundations needed to succeed. It fosters a sense of liberty from traditional career milestones, instead encouraging them to chart a path that aligns with their goals as well as what employers require.



The skymap is based on four core areas of development that we believe are essential to successful careers in social change: skills, values, networks, and practice.

Upon starting one of the Kroc School’s Master’s programs in Peace and Justice, Social Innovation, or Conflict Management and Resolution, students are introduced to the skymap and the first step in successful mapping: identifying what they already bring to the table.


Identifying Foundations

Starting at Orientation, students complete exercises to identify what their foundations are — what skills they have, what values drive them, what networks they are tapped into, and what applied peace practice they’ve engaged with. This helps students catalog the capacity that they bring into the School, and what they have to build from. During this time, students are introduced to CliftonStrengths, revealing what unique talents they have and giving them tools to define their innate abilities.

Why do this? At the Kroc School, we believe the better you understand yourself, the better you can communicate your value to others (notably employers).


Strategically Mapping the Stars

Graduate school can be a whirlwind of endless opportunities. To guide students in making the most of their experience, they delve into the second step in foundation building: strategizing. Within the first weeks of the semester, students participate in Career Design Studios (condensed career-planning workshops for accelerated degree programs), or internship seminars required for two-year programs.

As one would design a house, students design potential career paths. Engaging, self-reflective exercises in classes and workshops facilitate this process. Students then strategically plan how to optimize their time at the Kroc School: how to build skills and networks needed for potential careers, how to best gain applied practice — while adhering to their values.

First-year Peace and Justice students discuss their unique capacities during an internship preparation seminar.


Acting on Opportunity

Lunch-and-learns with professionals, sessions with mentors and guest speakers, workshops on racial justice or environmental sustainability — all of the Kroc School’s graduate programs empower students with countless ways to gain applied practice and to develop their skills, networks, and values.

Students use their skymap and act on opportunities to develop their careers. They can participate in activities that help them build their skills, from resume and cover letter development to negotiating salaries and interview practice. Fellows and scholars in residence, such as the Women PeaceMakers, also create opportunities for students to engage with professionals from the field. Students participate in applied peace practice through practica, field-based courses, and internships — ideal ways to grow their networks and “sample” potential career paths in peace and justice, social innovation, and conflict management and resolution.


Demonstrating Ability

Throughout their time at the Kroc School, students are constantly demonstrating their growth and development. Through simulations, presentations, and networking opportunities, students show their skills and capacities. This increases student comfort with outwardly displaying their achievements, often times in environments with potential employers or impactful networks.

The skymap, in addition to strategic goal-setting, prepares students to graduate with a comprehensive understanding of themselves and their professional opportunities. This transparent approach seeks to equitably distribute the practices and tools that will position students in the best possible way while allowing space for their unique route.

At the Kroc School, we are educating for peace. Ready to join us? Learn more about the Kroc School and its graduate programs.

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