Dyson School at Cornell University Prototypes Odyssey Planning

In the Summer of 2018, Lynn Wooten, Dean of the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, challenged her staff to integrate tenets of Designing Your Life into co-curricular programming and her Career Management Team gladly accepted the challenge.

In preparation for the Fall semester, Erin Brockway and Kim Sprought, Associate Directors with Dyson’s Career Management Center, developed multiple levels of career programming focused on helping students ideate and design multiple career paths through Odyssey Planning. The new Fall 2018 programming included:

  • Orientation session for 101 new transfer students

  • In-class presentation for 89 first years

  • Workshop for masters students

  • Workshops for undergraduate students

  • Individual Odyssey Planning, Prototyping, and Strategy coaching appointments accomplish. 

Dyson Career Team Picture.jpg

As with most business schools, Dyson students typically think of careers in the “Big Three”: finance, consulting and marketing. While continuing to support these goals, the Dyson Career Team is intentional about broadening the scope of possibilities by providing programming and opportunities for students to discuss and explore alternative career paths.  Through the Odyssey Planning programming, students were not only encouraged to think about and design alternative career paths, but they were also given the opportunity to share their ideas with their peers. Throughout the process of “Think, Pair, Share,” students assisted each other in ideating and designing alternate career paths.

The students who attended one of the presentations or workshops were very pleased with the experience, with over 80% of those surveyed stating they would recommend the experience to a classmate.  Furthermore, 80% of the students surveyed reported the experience helped them design alternative career paths. In addition to the positive surveys results, Kim has a collection of stories showcasing how students successfully ideated, designed, prototyped, and pursued alternative career paths.  Kim stated, “During one of the workshops, through collaboration, two students helped each other identify alternative career paths which incorporated multiple areas of interests. Both pursued their new paths and have recently accepted offers for full-time positions in alignment with their new path. That is a huge success.”

In reflecting on the Fall 2018 programming, Kim said, “while our Fall programming has been a success, it was our first prototype and the lessons we learned will help us refine the programming for the future.”  Key takeaways for the Dyson Career Team were:

-        Meet Your Students Where They Are. The Dyson Career Team offered programming for all students, ranging from first years to accelerated masters students. As you can imagine, the students’ ability to comprehend and engage in the experience was widely varied.  First years struggled with the experience, as thinking about their career was not something they were prepared to do in their first semester, while the accelerated masters students’ exceled at not only collaboratively creating alternative career paths, but also successfully prototyping and implementing their new paths.

-        Follow-Up Is Key. It was not enough to host a workshop aimed at ideating and creating alternative career paths; students also needed to be coached through the prototyping and implementation strategy phases.  With this realization, the Career Team began holding individualized career coaching appointments to facilitate the prototyping and strategy phases.

In addition to the targeted Odyssey Planning workshops, the Dyson Career Team has incorporated design thinking concepts into all of their career programming and workshops. “Instead of having traditional lecture-based workshops, we’re having more of a practical and applied experience where students are learning, thinking, and demonstrating the skills.  For example, the resume workshop challenges students to really think about what potential employers are looking for by going through a posting and creating robust bullet statements,” stated Erin.

There are some wonderful things ahead at Dyson as well.  Dean Wooten has selected “Designing Your Life” as the Winter Read for first years and the Career Team is expanding their programming to include a Prototyping and Strategy workshop. “At Dyson, we are energized by the Design Your Life co-curricular programming because it is aligned with our experiential learning pedagogy and provides us with tools for Dyson students to translate their life dreams into an action plan,” said Dean Wooten.