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On Campus

Chronicling Your Future

By Gregg Sangillo

American University unveils an illustrative, user-friendly website.

American University unveils an illustrative, user-friendly website.

Data Driven

What percentage of newly-minted AU alums with biology degrees go to grad school? What proportion of recent international studies graduates end up working in government? What might new alumni with accounting degrees expect to earn?

It's all at your fingertips on American University's new website, We KNOW Success: Where AU Graduates Land. The expansive, illustrative, data-driven site details job and graduate school outcomes, work sector choices, and salary ranges for recent AU graduates.

"It provides prospective students and families with simple, direct, and reliable information on the early outcomes of graduates who earn degrees from AU," says Teresa Flannery, vice president for communication.

The site, which can be found at www.american.edu/weknowsuccess/, chronicles the success of AU students within six months of graduation. We KNOW Success combines data from three recent graduating classes of bachelor's and master's degree students (2011-2013). You can check statistics by school (such as the College of Arts and Sciences or the School of Public Affairs), by major (economics, political science, etc.), or degree (bachelor's and master's, with some information about doctoral degree programs).

For many universities, collecting information on recent graduates yields low response rates and inconclusive results. Yet through assiduous data collection, strong community engagement, and active social media and LinkedIn monitoring, AU has achieved a remarkably high rate of completion for data gathered about the next destination of recent alumni.

"We realized we were sitting on a really powerful resource, in terms of this data," says Flannery. "It's very unusual for a university of our size to have responses from three quarters or more of our graduates at both grad and undergraduate levels. And it seemed responsible to share that information and make it more widely available."

The end result is an illuminating, user-friendly website accessible to the public. The site is the product of an 11-month collaboration by the Career Center, the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, the Office of Information Technology, and University Communications and Marketing.

"This website fits an existing need in the broader community of people who are considering attending universities like ours," says Gihan Fernando, executive director of the Career Center. "And it allows us to showcase some of the terrific successes that we've had over the years."

Worth the Investment

The overall numbers tell an encouraging story: 88 percent of bachelor's degree holders are working or in graduate school, while 91 percent of master's graduates are employed or pursuing other advanced degrees. Both percentages include people working while attending graduate school. Equally impressive: 85 percent of those who are working hold jobs related to their degree. "The vast majority of our students, in most categories, come out of here with a positive outcome," says Fernando.

With heightened national scrutiny over the value of a college education, these numbers demonstrate that prospective AU students and parents will be getting a strong return on their investment. "It's allowing them to make more informed decisions," adds Flannery.

The World is Your Oyster

The Career Center and other AU offices have paid special attention to students' professional development and job prospects. Fernando says 89 percent of all undergrads do internships while attending AU. This trend greatly enhances the likelihood of a student being employed within six months of graduation.

AU students' most popular internship destinations—such as the State Department and the World Bank—are included on the site. One section comprises short bios of high-achieving recent alums, including Deon Jones (SPA/BA '14), who became the youngest elected official in Washington, D.C. history by winning a seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission; and Fanta Aw, who earned her bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. here and works as AU's assistant vice president of campus life.

We KNOW Success also reveals that AU students are choosing a wide variety of career paths. With AU's traditional emphasis on public service, it's not surprising that nearly half of bachelor's degree recipients chose either non-profit or government work. Yet a full 53 percent of former undergrads surveyed work in the private sector. When examining recent master's degree recipients, the economic sector breakdown is remarkably balanced: 35 percent work at for-profit companies, 32 percent in government, and 31 percent with non-profits.

"From a university perspective, we are not about telling students, 'You should be doing X, Y, or Z.' We're really about trying to help you, from the beginning, identify what your interests are and then help you achieve that," says Fernando. "It's about making good choices for yourself, and doing it with knowledge and information."