Forging Ahead at Bradley

Bradley continues its focus on student success, with numerous initiatives getting underway in the coming months.

by Mary Brolly and Bob Grimson, Bradley University
Senior capstone projects
Senior capstone projects teach students to apply their knowledge through partnerships with local companies and organizations. Photos courtesy of Bradley University

If the ultimate purpose of college is to broaden a student’s knowledge and prepare them for the future, getting employed after earning a degree is a key marker of success. Recently, the career site Zippia ranked Bradley University the top school in Illinois for preparing students to find a job after they graduate. Over a five-year average, 93 percent of Bradley students were employed or continuing their education within six months of graduation.

Real-World Opportunities
Bradley offers several programs that have received national and even global recognition, including engineering, game design and various options in the health professions. These industries are growing, and jobs are in high demand. Bradley offers the programs that today’s economy needs. 

Beyond classroom knowledge, Bradley arms its students with experiential know-how and the soft skills employers value and increasingly demand. Aided by the Smith Career Center on campus, students discover their natural skills and talents, gain understanding of the hiring process, get assistance with job searches, and keep up with employment and economic trends. 

“We know students spend a lot of time looking for jobs in their major, but being open to other opportunities is important, too,” explains Jon Neidy, executive director of the career center and assistant vice president for student affairs. All Bradley students, he adds, must participate in experiential learning before they graduate. “Employers like to know students have had real-world opportunities outside the classroom. It’s an indicator of their ability to make decisions and think critically.”

Bradley strives to meet the needs of graduate students, too. Working educators who want to improve their teaching prospects or become eligible for a superintendent position can take advantage of its new online EdD program. The program enrolls students in two tracks: one in PK-12 educational leadership and another in higher education administration. In as few as seven semesters, students can earn this terminal degree. Another bonus: the doctoral research requirement, which uses action research methodology, is embedded within the coursework.

Bradley Department of Interactive Media
Bradley’s Department of Interactive Media is globally recognized for its programs encompassing game design, animation, user experience and more.

Community-Wide Collaboration 
In addition, the university continues to increase its efforts to partner and collaborate with local businesses and members of the community. Recent examples include a project that brought together economics faculty and researchers at Peoria’s Jump Simulation Center to gauge public perceptions on patient care; undergraduate and graduate students working with a corporate partner to create faster microchips; and nursing students partnering with engineering students to design medical equipment.

Senior capstone projects teach students to apply their knowledge in business settings, often with students of other majors. The new innovation through collaboration minor emphasizes teamwork and business principles as students develop solutions or launch a new product for a professional organization. 

Helping these projects come to fruition is a state-of-the-art business and engineering convergence center set to open this fall, offering classrooms, labs, offices and meeting space for the 21st century and beyond. The multilevel, 270,000-square-foot structure is the new home of the Foster College of Business, the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology, and the Institute for Innovation Through Collaboration. “Merging these two colleges in a singular space and establishing an environment that enables collaboration between these two disciplines is exciting and rare within college offerings,” says Larry McGuire, director of facilities.

Dr. Lex Akers, dean of Bradley’s Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology, encourages members of the community to use the facility, too. In the future there will be makers’ laboratory days, robotics competitions, Lego competitions, joint endeavors with Quest Charter Academy, and other events and learning opportunities. 

“This will enhance an already strong community collaborative experience,” he explains. “Younger kids will see they can study and create a wonderful career, and high school students will see others just a few years older than them being successful. They will see wonderful role models, and hopefully, they will want to be educated in Peoria.” PM