In part one of this podcast Q&A, we will be discussing students' transition from graduate school to practice. Ryan Hollister, associate director of Bennett Career Services Center, talks to us about the resources he provides to Salus students to help them find a career in their field and make it as smooth a transition as possible.

Ryan Hollister:
Hi everyone, my name is Ryan Hollister and I am the associate director of the Bennett Career Services Center at Salus. I've been in this role since July of 2016. Prior to that, I was the associate director of admissions and was in that position since 2011. So I have been at Salus for just about 10 years now.


Q: Can you explain how the Bennett Career Services Center helps Salus students?

Ryan HollisterA: I've been in the Bennett Center since July of 2016 and real brief kind of history on the Bennett Center: the Bennett Center has been around for a long, long time, and it started back when Salus University was just PCO, Pennsylvania College of Optometry. And under the direction of the previous director and others, the Bennett Center did a lot to serve the students at PCO. They offered all kinds of services. Some of them continue today, and others have changed with the times. But when Salus became a university, the Bennett Center, it did provide some services to students in those other programs, but it really did not I guess grow with the rest of the University.

So in 2016, when I took over, part of the priorities for the Bennett Center was to evaluate what was working and take the services that were there for students and make them available across all the different programs that we have at the University.

One big example of that is our job board. The previous job board was something called Perfect Eyesight. It was pretty antiquated. We were still getting ads and things submitted by email, even by fax, and we were manually going in and updating the job board and listings. And it was actually just limited to the Optometry program. Shortly after I started, we implemented the Salus University Career Link portal, and that's run by Simplicity. And that portal now includes a job board for all of our programs at the University, and it is run online as a free service for students. It's also free for employers and, in a lot of cases, the employers that are posting on there are graduates of the University. So it's a free service for them. But that's one area that we have definitely grown and expanded and updated to be a service for the students.

I always refer to the Bennett Center as we, full disclosure, it is a one person office. I am the only one in the Bennett Center. But like I said, I have worked with all of my colleagues in student affairs for a number of years, and they're a huge help in different events and planning that we do. Students can come to the Bennett Center for any help and any assistance that they need when it comes to getting ready to graduate, transition to practice and finding those jobs after they graduate. We do resume reviews, contract reviews, just everything to help them prepare for the job search and eventually getting that first job, or maybe opening their practice upon graduation.

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Q: So now that you've mentioned all those different services that the career center does, what are some tips you might give a prospective student who might be interested in attending Salus for grad school, despite any type of program?

A: So tips for prospective students, I think kind of a larger message for anyone who is possibly considering Salus or looking at health professions in general is you are entering the golden age really for healthcare, I think, in the United States. We look at the programs that Salus has to offer, collectively between all of them, we’re looking at between a 19 and 30 percent projected job growth rate over the next decade, which is phenomenal, far outpaces average job growth in pretty much all other sectors. Tech is a big area and a few others, but healthcare is booming. 

So, if you're considering a career in the health professions, this is a great time to be doing so, despite the challenges that all healthcare providers are facing today. We will get through this crisis. And this is absolutely a learning experience for everyone. But despite this 2020 blip on the radar, it's still a phenomenal time. And healthcare providers and therapists, rehabilitation specialists are in very high demand.

And I've spent, like I said, nearly a decade at Salus, and I know how strong our programs are. I was there when we started the OT program, the Speech Pathology program and several other programs, but those two big ones, just as examples. So I know what we have to offer. And I would say if you're considering one of these programs, especially Salus, try to find out as much as you can. We have some great programs to introduce to you and give you a firsthand look at what a day in the life is like. As an Audiology student, for example, we run the Audiology Learning Experience (ALE) program each year. Optometry, we've been running the Optometry Learning Experience (OLE) for several decades now. And they're both just wonderful opportunities to learn more about the profession, but also, like I said, get a firsthand look, put on the shoes of a first year student at Salus and see what the program's all about, see what the school's all about, see what the professors are like. And that I think would give you the best perspective of what you can expect to Salus.

But outside of that, as you're preparing for graduate school and preparing to apply, make sure you're remaining focused on your academics, and do as much shadowing as you can. Get out there in the field and learn as much about your profession as you can so that when you're on campus and you're interviewing and you're talking to these admissions committees, you have a genuine desire and motivation and commitment to your chosen field.

Q: Getting more into the practice side of going to grad school, that's pretty much your end goal. Can you kind of explain the timeline that a student might go through from the first year all the way until applying to practices?

transition to practiceA: So, it kind of depends on the program, of course. At Salus, we have a number of programs, but we kind of focus on the main lockstep residential programs, and there's really two versions of that. There's the two year master's degree program. So Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy, and Physician Assistant fall into those categories. And then the two doctoral programs would be the Doctor of Optometry and the Doctor of Audiology. So a two year versus a four year timeframe, but upon entering, we in the Bennett Center, we make sure that we're visible and available right from the get-go. I speak to all the incoming students upon their entry into their program during new student orientation each year. And really, it's just an introduction, letting them know where the Bennett Center is, where you can find the resources, and what all we have available to help them as students.

I also recognize that when they first get to Salus, their focus is going to be on their academics and on their clinical skills and really honing those skills early on. So we want you to focus on those. We want you to concentrate on those, but there are a number of different skills and competencies that our students will develop and work on over their time in their program. And I think Salus does a phenomenal job through our interprofessional education of weaving all of those things together, intercultural communication and digital technology. There's a whole host of different skill sets, leadership, professionalism, for example, that again, they're woven into the curriculum, they're experienced in their clinical rotations, and they're all things that in the Bennett Center that we help to and we strive to encourage and support, not necessarily teach directly in all cases, but encourage and support students in developing all of those competencies throughout their time at the University.

For students, when you really start to get serious about thinking about graduation and what is life going to be like after you graduate, for a lot of students that process really starts to get, or starts to be more forefront, in their minds really in their last year. So second year for the two year programs, and of course the fourth year for the fourth year programs.

But we're here to help you along the way. I work with all of our students on helping them to update and draft a very professional resume. We do interview skills workshops. We have a number of different networking opportunities and career fairs that we run throughout the year. We help to organize information sessions presented by employers and recruiters who are looking to hire Salus students.

Of course, this year, we've had to take a different approach to all of those different events. We've done some career fairs in the past, and employers have hosted dinners and happy hours and just fun social events and activities that are also good informational events for students. This year, as with everything, we've had to pivot to a virtual format for those events, but we want to make sure that we're still delivering those opportunities to students so they can begin networking, they can begin to think about and formulate and prepare for life after graduation.