Making Connections that Count


“When will I ever use this stuff?”

I think anyone who has undergone any kind of formal education has probably asked themselves this question at least once. For me, it was usually around my third cup of coffee the night before an exam I should have started studying for three weeks prior.

Does usefulness matter?

It’s a question worth asking for students and non-students alike.

Take me for example.

Connections3My undergrad degree is in pharmaceutical sciences, which I still can’t spell correctly without help from autocorrect. I met amazing people through my program and developed personally through my college career, but now I work a completely different field: student development, consulting with supervisors. To date, not one of you has ever called me to your office to discuss the hydrolysis process of drug metabolism and how that might affect your student employees. (It’s a thrilling conversation if you ever want to take me up on that!)

The truth is, we can’t expect everything a student learns to be useful to them at every stage in their life.


Making connections between what one learns in class and what one does outside of class absolutely matters. And it all comes down to the concept of “Goal Realization.”

What’s goal realization?

Great Question!

Goal realization is “the ability of a student to articulate what he or she intends to get out of college and to make connections between what he or she is learning inside and outside of class to priorities and activities that have value in the present moment.” (Kuh, 2016, p.52)

In other words, goal realization is having an idea of why you came to college and being able to find meaningful connections between what you learn and what you experience in real life. It’s being able to apply some of what you study to one or more areas of your life that you consider personally relevant or important.Connections5

And here’s the kicker …

Goal realization is linked to a student’s satisfaction and persistence in college (Kuh, 2016). Goal realization is considered one of the early college factors that can have a large impact on whether students stick around for the degree or leave early.

This is great Information, but what does it have to do with supervision?

As a supervisor, you are in the prime position to help students process their goals for school and think through those connections between what is learned at school and what is learned at work. Through informal dialogue, as well as OSU GROW conversations, you can make a difference in how students understand the importance of their studies and their employment role.

Connections4Helping students process connections between work, class, and their future goals can lead to more meaningful investment in their classes and their employment role.

So whether you have wrapped up your OSU GROW conversations for the semester or still have more to complete, invest time in these kinds of conversations.

You never know the impact even a small conversation could have on the success of your students!

Where can I nerd out more about goal realization and student persistence?

Check out this article: (Kuh, 2016) and/or add your thoughts on the subject to the comment section below!!

2 thoughts on “Making Connections that Count

  1. First off–yes, Caleb, someone is reading your blog posts! Good article also.

    One challenge I can see for supervisors is helping students to see beyond or outside of what they think their chosen profession is, right now. For me, my bachelor’s is in English Education, and the skills I learned about communication, learning theories, writing, etc. all benefit me today. But I doubt that I would have thought that I’d possibly be in any other profession aside from teaching high school English. I feel like for many OSU students, they only look at the jobs they’re being trained for in college (engineer, accounting, artist, etc), which makes absolute sense.

    I feel like as supervisors, our job (among other things) is to help students to see what they do every day at work WILL benefit them regardless of their potential job. “So, yes–you’re using Excel and are planning on teaching English. Did you know that you can use Excel to help calculate grades, to show trends across years to help you measure your effectiveness, etc?” Or, “Yes, you’re working at Morrill Commons serving food, and you’re an engineer? Did you know that how we prepare and serve food is an example manufacturing? How does that apply to your career plans? And let’s talk about working as part of a team, filling in where you’re needed because someone else called off!”

    I’m rambling now; it’s what I do. Have a great day, everyone!

    • Tom Reeves! Thanks for reading and for these great thoughts. This is really the heart of the conversation, isn’t it? How do we help students to see these connections and, more importantly, how do we help students make these connections on their own?

      I think supervisors can really play a front line role in these conversations about applying both work-learning and class-learning. I also love your examples – might steal them in the future and pretend their mine! ; )

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