Adelphi's new Gap Year Experience program provides student with opportunities to gain professional skills through hands-on learning.

Adelphi is reinventing the traditional gap year and helping students gain real-world career skills with its new online academic program, the Gap Year Experience.

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, many students are suffering financially, unable to travel, and unhappy with their remote learning experiences as high school seniors. Research shows that 2020 could see the biggest gap year ever: One in six high school seniors are changing their plans to attend college in the fall and, of those, 16 percent are planning to take a gap year. Still, traditional gap year activities such as traveling, interning and volunteering on-site are now limited by the global pandemic.

That’s where Adelphi’s new program comes in. With the Gap Year Experience, small teams of students will work together remotely to develop a project for a partner company or organization in their chosen field. Participants can choose to earn college credits or certification, and the program is open to domestic and international students at Adelphi as well as other universities.

“We had to completely rethink the way traditional academia works,” said Graziela Fusaro, director of Adelphi’s Innovation Center, which is running the program. “We wanted to provide students with a learning experience that is helpful for their career but doesn’t fall into that traditional lecture-style class.”

An Immersive Virtual Program

The 11-week program is offered for two semesters, starting September 7, 2020, and February 1, 2021. Each kicks off with three weeks of training to build project management abilities, strategic thinking, consulting and professional skills.

“We’re going to help students build their professional persona and craft résumés and LinkedIn profiles,” Fusaro said. “So the first time they meet their clients, they have that professional mindset to begin with.”

That introduction is followed by eight weeks of project-based learning and development in partnership with a company. Projects may include topics such as building a social media campaign, designing a growth strategy, or rethinking organizational processes after Covid-19. Students can also choose the type of company they work with—from Fortune 500 corporations to startups to nonprofits—as well as the field, such as health, finance, marketing or social work.

“We call it a test drive for their career, especially upcoming first-year students who might be undecided about their major,” Fusaro said. “They get to work in the area they choose before they even enter the workforce.”

Students will build teamwork skills through company meetings, guest speaker series and collaborative exercises. They’ll also develop digital skills for remote work, which are especially valuable today.

“How do you interact with someone online and engage in a professional conversation? How do you create documents, videos or webinars?” Fusaro said. “We help students create that tool kit to be able to efficiently work in a virtual setting.”

An Innovation Center Focused on Launching Careers

The Gap Year Experience is just one hands-on learning program Adelphi’s Innovation Center (IC) is offering. The center, which launched in the spring of 2020, currently hosts virtual internships for 55 students across 15 partner companies, including the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the American Cancer Society.

The center also runs IC Labs, which pairs students with partner organizations to consult on extracurricular projects. Jovia Financial Credit Union, for example, tapped Adelphi students to research online banking trends among Generation Z consumers and innovations for its digital tools. Additionally, the Live Cases program will launch in the fall, bringing partner organizations into current classes to teach direct, real-world application of the theories the students are studying.

The Gap Year Experience, along with these other programs, illustrates Adelphi’s ongoing commitment to student success through high-quality academic experiences.

“I hope students finish the Gap Year Experience saying that they really enjoyed it, that they learned a lot, and that it’s possible to continue working remotely in the future and be happy,” Fusaro said. “And, of course, that they see this is the Adelphi remote experience. If they join Adelphi, they’re going to be building their career and applying their knowledge from day one.”

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