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The Aspire Program


What is Aspire?

The Aspire Program™ at Carthage College provides a comprehensive 4-year career preparation program, which helps students develop a dynamic approach to goal-setting and life skill-building. Students will own their ability to be lifelong learners and impactful contributors in the world and to recover when plans don’t go as expected. 

How will students benefit from The Aspire Program?

The Aspire Program will help students to develop these key skills:

  • Develop a sense of self — skills, values, vocation/calling, and interests.
  • Identify opportunities to use those skills in the world (for example, in internships, jobs, or service activities).
  • Take initiative and demonstrate creativity, entrepreneurial skills, leadership, and resilience.
  • Learn professional norms for desired industries in order to present well and secure positions related to their personal and career goals.

What do students get through The Aspire Program?

  • Receive career advisors and mentors from the first days on campus. All Carthage students receive an assigned Career Specialist, who collaborates with the student’s academic advisor to help the student succeed in college and build plans for the future.
  • Participate in a wide range of experiential learning opportunities. Internships, study abroad, research, and many other opportunities allow students to build skills necessary for today’s job market.
  • Build leadership, entrepreneurship, and creativity skills to lead and thrive in times of change. With 40 percent of jobs likely to change significantly within the next 10 years, Carthage is educating students for today and tomorrow.

Our approach to career success reduces stress for students and helps them make better decisions to be more prepared for life after graduation. We celebrate small and big accomplishments; career development is a journey with many ups and downs. Carthage students join a community of people exploring who they are and how to make a difference in the world. Students will design an individualized plan to organize their exploration and set goals for the future, which will be revised and developed throughout their time at Carthage.

Who participates in Aspire?

Starting with the Fall 2019 entering class, participation in The Aspire Program™ is expected for all Carthage students. From their first year on campus, students will be automatically enrolled in The Aspire Program and many of its activities. For example, all first-year students will develop their iAspire career plan in the required College Success Seminar. Many other Aspire components will be built into Carthage academic coursework and student life activities.

Current Carthage students can register for Aspire program components as they become available. The first elements of the new program will launch in Spring 2019. 

What makes career advising different at Carthage than other places?

  • At Carthage, each student is assigned a career advisor, known as a Career Specialist, in The Aspire Center during their first year.
  • Each Aspire Career Specialist has industry knowledge, informed by regular contact with alumni and employers. Most specialists possess work experience related to the fields they advise, not just work experience in higher education or career counseling.
  • Career Specialists have an understanding of personal development and how to help students set goals and work through barriers or challenges when they arise
  • Career Specialists don’t work alone; they serve as connectors to help students maximize their use of on- and off-campus resources. For example, an Aspire Career Specialist may help students find faculty, upper-class students, and alumni with similar interests, or identify networking events where students can connect with professionals beyond the immediate Carthage network. Carthage’s location in the Chicago-to-Milwaukee corridor provides access to many opportunities for students to be connected to global companies, thriving start-ups, and everything in between. 

How do you motivate all students to engage?

We know that personal and career development aren’t always easy. We are developing a program worthy of national distinction for its ability to engage students effectively and prepare them for lives of purpose. The Aspire Program is designed to be utilized by all students. Given the diversity of the campus population — including traditionally-aged and non-traditional students — students will certainly have different motivations for participating in Aspire. We make participation easy, and opportunities are integrated throughout the campus community. It will be almost unavoidable for a student to participate in The Aspire Program once all components are fully launched.

How do I move through the program?

Aspire’s components are sequenced. It is important, for instance, that students first complete an interest inventory and mock interview before they are referred to internship sites. Eligibility for each stage of Aspire depends on having accomplished earlier stages. Carthage students receive special access to tools that allow them to collaborate with their Career Specialist to see progress toward program requirements.

How will I fulfill program requirements?

Opportunities to fulfill Aspire components will vary by semester, but there will be formal and informal opportunities to develop career goals and leadership capabilities each year. Every eligible student, for instance, participates in an internship or other experiential component and will enroll in at least one before or during their third year at Carthage. Aspire Career Specialists will assist in ensuring that all students have such an experience, helping match students to opportunities.

How do you ensure that all students have an internship or other experiential components?

Aspire Career Specialists work individually with students to find appropriate experiences for their interests. While internships are a common way that students complete the experiential component, other opportunities include off-campus study programs with applied learning, courses with substantial field experiences, and research opportunities.

Does it cost extra for students to participate in Aspire?

No. Students do not need to pay anything extra to complete The Aspire Program, though some optional opportunities may require an additional fee. 

Will it take me longer to complete my degree?

No. Students can complete their degree and all components of The Aspire Program within four years using Carthage’s existing academic calendar (including J-Term). Some of the most competitive internships and research experiences are only available during the summer, so students may need to plan for that.

What kinds of activities will students participate in through Aspire?

  • Starting in Fall 2019, all first-year Carthage students will begin to design an iAspire Plan to clarify their interests, skills, and goals. They will consult with their Career Specialist in their first year, and continue refining this plan throughout their time at Carthage.
  • All Carthage students may participate in The Aspire Conference, which helps them meet faculty, peer mentors, and key alumni. Each year different tracks are available to support exploring career options, securing internships (and other relevant experiential learning opportunities), and building skills to lead and succeed after graduation.
  • Students will identify their emerging team of mentors and engage with their Career Specialists to determine the support they might need to secure a meaningful experiential learning opportunity.
  • Students secure real experiences to build skills and social networks.

Through The Aspire Program, students will learn to see possibilities and options. They will learn to design plans while understanding that new information or experiences might alter those plans. They will learn that career development is most effective when it’s embedded in our regular lives, not occasional. The Aspire Program prepares students for lifelong success by helping students develop habits of mind that encourage lifelong growth.

 What if I don’t have a career plan (and am maybe a little nervous about making one)?

Don’t worry! Even students with very clear plans will likely alter their plans over time. Through The Aspire Program, you will learn how to set a direction, and how you can utilize the many resources at Carthage and in the broader community to test your options and get prepared for whatever you might decide to pursue.