This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Examining the Relationships Between Mandatory Career Courses, High-Impact Practices, and First-Destination Outcomes




Buckley-Burnell, Addye

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


The rising cost of education and competition among universities has led to consumer demands for information pertaining to their return on investment. Universities have been encouraged to provide first-destination outcomes for graduates as a way to show the value of their degree programs. To strengthen these outcomes, many programs encourage or mandate high-impact practices and career courses to prepare emerging adults and adult learners for the transition to employment or further education. However, little is known as to the impact these practices actually have on the first-destination outcomes of these graduating students. Furthermore, the impact of these practices during the COVID-19 global pandemic has not yet been fully evaluated. Using data obtained from a mandatory first-destination survey and the Campus Engagement and Experiences Survey, along with demographic information, at a large southeastern public university for graduates in December 2019 (just before COVID-19) and December 2020 (during COVID-19), this study explored the relationships between high-impact practices and mandatory career courses with first-destination outcomes. Using Pearson chi-squares and multinomial logic regressions, differences between the cohorts were examined and added value of experiences was analyzed. A Pearson chi-square resulted in significant differences being observed for first-destination outcomes among those who graduated just before COVID-19 and after with more graduates still seeking opportunities and continued education six months after graduation among the 2020 graduates. Significantly more graduates from the December 2019 cohort participated in one or more high-impact practices. The greatest differences were seen with the decrease in internship, co-ops, and study abroad experiences among the mid-pandemic cohort. Completion of co-ops, internships, undergraduate research, and working while enrolled at the university had significant relationships with positive first-destination outcomes in both cohorts. Mandatory career courses were shown to only add significant value above and beyond high-impact practices for those in the 2020 cohort admitted to continuing education programs. Further study is needed to examine how emerging adults and adult learners are acquiring the skills and experiences needed to transition to life after college.