By Margaret Maclean
Class of 2017
SPOKANE, Wash. – Ray Angle, the leader in Gonzaga University’s redoubled efforts to ensure students identify career paths while in school and succeed after graduation, cites St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, in summarizing the multiple initiatives to achieve those goals.
“We want to make sure that the students are getting the resources they need to ‘go forth and set the world on fire’ in a very Ignatian way,” said Angle, who begins his second year as assistant vice president for career and professional development. “Our job is not to tell students what to do, it’s about working with them to help them find a good career fit.”
Judi Biggs Garbuio, vice president for student development, says career development is a top priority for most universities given the national conversation about the return on investment for a degree. Last year, as students were deciding whether to attend Gonzaga, career and professional development received a record number of calls to clarify programs and services offered to capitalize on their degree.
“With Ray’s leadership, Gonzaga is incorporating a holistic approach to career development that integrates their academic pursuit and co-curricular experiences while engaging the students with Gonzaga alumni to serve as mentors,” Biggs Garbuio said.
With more than a quarter-century of progressively responsible career services experience at five universities before coming to Gonzaga, Angle is known as an innovator honored nationally for his effectiveness. Among the first things he did at Gonzaga was improve the focus on data to track career success.
Improved data collection resulted in the 2015 Destination Survey Report, which found more than 92 percent of Gonzaga graduates who received their bachelor’s degrees with the class of 2015 reported they are either employed (full- or part-time), continuing their education or serving as volunteers or in the military.
Angle understands the stakes involved for students and their families regarding career choices. The first in his family to attend college, he says studies indicate that current undergraduates (in the millennial generation of children born between 1982 and 2002) could change jobs as many as 29 times in their lives.
Angle – whose career path has brought more than a dozen job changes – says Gonzaga’s career and professional development staff aims to prepare students for their first professional destination after college and to manage their own lifelong career development.
“The heart of what we do is to help students clarify what they want to do, and attain their goals,” Angle said. “That relationship and one-on-one service career professionals provide, which is one of the most important things we do, hasn’t changed. What has changed is the technology and expectations. Those have intensified.”
To help meet those expectations, Gonzaga also has overhauled ZagTrax, the online career management system for students, to be more user-friendly and effective in helping students identify both career opportunities and potential employers. In addition, the department – located in Crosby – is undergoing a major renovation to better accommodate students, staff and services.
Angle describes students’ career development as a journey and views Gonzaga’s role as accompanying students with the appropriate resources every step of the way. Too often in higher education, he says, students are stressed about deciding majors and career paths.
“We are here to help alleviate some of that anxiety by showing them that career development is an ‘unfolding’ process. There is no one path to any one career goal,” he says, noting Gonzaga’s career professionals strive to meet students where they are and help them develop a vision for careers in which they will be successful and fulfilled.
For Angle, students’ career success is more about finding a “purpose” rather than the oft-mentioned “passion.”
“Too many people flippantly tell students ‘just find your passion,’” said Angle, who earned a master’s in college student personnel administration from the University of Central Missouri at Warrensburg.
“Passion is such an awkward word to use because it can mean so many different things which makes it hard to define. I love this work, but I wouldn’t say that it’s my passion. It’s my purpose,” he said. “I believe that God has blessed me with a gift for creating environments that make people successful and I choose to live out this purpose as a career services professional. I feel especially blessed to be serving God and living out my purpose here at Gonzaga.”