Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

From Campus to Corporation: Using Developmental Assessment Centers to Facilitate Students' Next Career Steps

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

From Campus to Corporation: Using Developmental Assessment Centers to Facilitate Students' Next Career Steps

Article excerpt


For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by
doing them.
--Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

Honors graduates have much to learn when transitioning into their first position after college. For instance, workplaces have an entirely different culture and set of expectations from undergraduate honors classrooms (Wendlandt & Rochlen). Furthermore, the skills they need to become successful employees or graduate students are different from those required of successful honors college students, with a greater emphasis on communication skills (Stevens) as one example.

Honors students are bright, curious, and hard-working (Achterberg), and honors programs give them the opportunity to foster accelerated academic success and access to extensive resources. Although honors programs are extremely beneficial to students intellectually and academically, many honors students graduate without adequate knowledge of the skills and capabilities that they are expected to have in the workplace. Thus, these recent graduates are often intellectually but not organizationally prepared.

At the Pennsylvania State University's Schreyer Honors College, we have found a way to mitigate this gap in skills and understanding by operating an assessment center, a work simulation program designed to allow students to experience organizational life while also receiving crucial feedback from those with experience in the workforce. The value of assessment centers lies in enhancing scholars' educational and career development, and successful implementation requires important considerations, processes, and resources. The detailed story of Schreyer Honors College's Leadership Assessment Center elaborates on the factors that have been crucial to the team's success in providing this opportunity to Penn State's honors students over the past ten years and might inspire other academic institutions to consider creating assessment centers for their scholars' education.

Although the Assessment Center's enhanced educational experience for honors college students is its primary goal, the benefits extend to all involved in the center, including graduate students, alumni, and the undergraduate students and faculty who serve as administrators for the center. A successful assessment center can also benefit the college itself as a tool for recruiting future students. As a former dean of Schreyer pointed out early on, "This gives me an edge when talking to prospective parents and students who are considering Penn State versus other institutions. The progressive nature of our overall program is enhanced by offering unique opportunities like the assessment center."


Delineating the skills and abilities that lead to workplace success is essential to knowing what we need to teach our students. Fortunately, work-oriented psychologists, or industrial/organizational (IO) psychologists, have been addressing questions specific to workplace skills for some time. That knowledge base has culminated in numerous taxonomies of what it takes to achieve effective workplace performance. In the world of IO psychology, these lists are known as competency models.

In the early 2000s, IO psychologist Dave Bartram began examining organizations' workplace competency models to look for common themes. Although researchers and theorists initially thought of leadership ability as a trait, or something that is stable and difficult to change in a person, time brought realizations that other factors crucially affect one's ability to lead (Lord et al.). In short, researchers realized that people can work on their leadership skills to improve their organizational effectiveness. Many organizations began to develop lists not only of characteristics required by leaders but, more importantly, the behaviors that leaders engage in that make them effective. …

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