A creative outlet: UM-Dearborn’s Talent Gateway launches, plugs students in to opportunities and innovation

September 25, 2016

UM-Dearborn’s new Talent Gateway plugs students in to opportunities and innovation.

UM-Dearborn Talent Gateway
UM-Dearborn Talent Gateway
Students participate in an “Innovation Team Challenge” brainstorming session with U-M Ann Arbor Clinical Professor of Business Administration Jeff DeGraff as part of the launch of the Talent Gateway.

On the first day of class, Angelina Lopez was presented with a list of course-long projects.

Evaluating which project to choose, she asked herself: “How can I use this as a way to show how I’ve worked with a team? Which project will let me highlight different skills on my resume?”

Lopez said she didn’t always think in those terms. But her experience with the Talent Gateway, a new UM-Dearborn campus-wide initiative, has helped her understand how to leverage her opportunities.

Through an interactive online community platform, the Talent Gateway prompts students to reflect on their daily activities—academic, work, co-curricular and personal—and explore how they can apply those experiences to other parts of their lives.

“There are all kinds of challenges—some easy that introduce you to life on campus, some that push you outside your comfort zone. And your reflections make you think critically about your experiences and make connections you might not have made,” said Lopez, who participated in the Talent Gateway’s pilot program over the summer. “Now I notice that I’m asking those same reflection questions outside of the challenges.”

Lopez was on hand Friday to celebrate the official launch of the Talent Gateway at UM-Dearborn’s Fairlane Center. For the event, students, faculty, staff and community members gathered for brainstorming sessions and a keynote address by internationally renowned artist Twyla Tharp.

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Kate Davy said Tharp’s best-selling book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, inspired her to create the Talent Gateway concept. It’s a concept that is important, she said, because today’s graduates will, for various reasons, make nearly 14 job changes by age 38, one every two or three years.

Davy said the university established the Talent Gateway in an effort to teach students how to scan the landscape for opportunities.

“Students need to be fleet of foot to be successful in an ever-changing environment. This can be accomplished through a creative mindset,” said Davy. “The Talent Gateway—through challenges and reflection—will help students develop discipline, skills and habits so they are able to reinvent themselves in the face of changing economic conditions.”

The Talent Gateway is a voluntary, self-directed program. Students who choose to participate complete a series of challenges, which can range from reading a New York Times article to volunteering in the community. Students then post their reflections on those challenges and receive feedback from a mentor.

Each challenge completed translates into points in the online game-like system—the Gradecraft platform created by U-M Ann Arbor Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Education Barry Fishman—and each unlocks a series of ever-more complex challenges. Students who earn 50,000 points will graduate with a special MTalent distinction.

In addition to the virtual presence, the Talent Gateway also has a physical presence on campus in Fairlane Center North, where students will find staff dedicated to assisting them with understanding campus resources, obtaining a mentor, and identifying and landing co-op and internship opportunities, career development and job placements.

Fiana Arbab, a senior who, like Lopez, participated in the pilot program, said she saw the benefits of the program right away.

“We can see how everything intertwines because we now have a central hub where everything is connected—career development, academic development and personal development. You need all three to be a holistic, successful person,” she said. “Through opportunity and participation, the Talent Gateway fosters growth by opening doors that many of us didn’t even realize were there.”

Internationally renowned artist Twyla Tharp answers a question during her keynote address.
Internationally renowned artist Twyla Tharp answers a question during her keynote address.
Internationally renowned artist Twyla Tharp answers a question during her keynote address.

At the Talent Gateway launch, keynote speaker Twyla Tharp called the Talent Gateway a remarkable opportunity for students—one she wished her son had when he was in college.

“I’ve never heard of something like this before. It’s phenomenal,” she said. “The Talent Gateway is a community. And even more than that, it is guaranteed to pull you through to somewhere. What more can you ask for?”

Earlier in the day, U-M Ann Arbor Clinical Professor of Business Administration Jeff DeGraff led a student-focused “Innovation Team Challenge” brainstorming session. He said the Talent Gateway is happening at the right place at the right time.

“You are on the frontline of the renaissance in this region,” DeGraff said. “Through hard work and innovative thought and action, it will be the people in this room who make that renaissance happen.”

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