Alaska PEAK (Purposeful Engagement, Assessing Knowledge) is a framework for the on-campus student employment experience that leverages reflective learning and relationship building between student employees and their supervisors.
Alaska PEAK was first established in 2015 by the Student Affairs Assessment Team (A-Team) as an initiative to evaluate and assess the on-campus student employment experience. The program has since evolved into much more, elevating on-campus student employment as an intentional and high-impact practice that enhances students’ personal development, professional growth, and academic success. Alaska PEAK at its core, uses brief, structured conversations between student employees and their supervisors to support students to reflect and connect learning from their diverse campus experiences.
The Alaska PEAK program provides:
- A structure for meaningful interactions to occur between supervisors and student employees
- A venue for students to reflect and create connections between learning occurring in the classroom and through on-campus employment
- Opportunities for students to gain skills that will be valuable to future employment.
This structure ensures that all student employees have an equitable and consistent experience regardless of the department in which they work.
Students and supervisors participate in Alaska PEAK during each fall and spring semester that a student is employed on campus. At the beginning of each fall semester, students and supervisors participate in Alaska PEAK orientation sessions. The student employee orientation introduces Alaska PEAK as part of the UAA culture—evidence that supervisors truly care about what students are learning through their UAA experiences. Similarly, the supervisor orientation provides Alaska PEAK as a structure for the role supervisors can play in helping students make connections between work and academics.
Alaska PEAK uses brief, structured conversations between student employees and their supervisors to support students to reflect and connect learning from their diverse campus experiences. The program requires supervisors to host two Alaska PEAK conversations with their student employees (either as individual or small group conversations) each semester. These conversations foster a relationship between student employees and their supervisor and provide a venue for supervisors to help student employees to effectively articulate their learning experiences and goals while at UAA and beyond.
Each conversation includes core questions about what students are learning and how they are applying their learning. Supervisors ask two standard questions during the first meeting of the semester and a different three questions during the second meeting of the semester. Students reflect on and respond to these questions in advance of their in-person conversations. Supervisors are encouraged to ask additional follow-up questions based on the functional area in which the student works or the personal or professional goals of the student.
In addition to the two Alaska PEAK conversations per semester, supervisors assist each student employee to produce a well-developed resume by the second conversation of each semester. This resume illustrates the student’s accomplishments and skills developed from their on-campus employment positions. Each spring, students also complete in an End-of-year Student Employee Survey, which evaluates key outcomes of student employment and work-academic connections.
Five Core Questions
Supervisors are expected to have two Alaska PEAK conversations (individual or small group) with student employees each semester. All supervisors use the same five core questions each semester for consistency. Any other questions that you ask should be asked in addition to the core questions. The core questions are essential to Alaska PEAK and will be assessed at the end of the academic year.
Fall Semester Conversation #1:
- Often student employees make connections between their job and their studies. What are you learning in class that you can apply here at work?
- What skills would you like experience developing that you feel would better prepare you for the future?
Fall Semester Conversation #2:
- What skills are you gaining in your job that you can apply to your future career and personal life?
- What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in your position this semester?
- How has your time in this role impacted your student experience at UAA?
* Repeat pattern and questions for spring semester.
Alaska PEAK Supervisor Checklist
- Attend Supervisor Orientation
- Communicate intended learning outcomes to students and benefits and expectations for employment
- Introduce students to Alaska PEAK program expectations and purpose
- Remind students of reflection prompts and upcoming conversations
- Facilitate two Alaska PEAK conversations with students each semester
- Connect students with Career Exploration and campus resources
- Support students to develop well-crafted traditional resume or digital equivalent each semester
- Encourage students to participate in end of year student employment survey
Student Employee Learning Outcomes
The Student Employee Learning Outcomes (SELO) are to be used by supervisors as a guide to support the development of individual student employees. As a result of on-campus student employment at UAA, students will have the opportunity to develop these foundational career competencies:
- Leadership - Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals, and use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others. The individual is able to assess and manage his/her emotions and those of others; use empathetic skills to guide and motivate; and organize, prioritize, and delegate work.
- Oral & Written Communication: Ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms to persons inside and outside the organization. The individual has public speaking skills; and can write/edit memos, letters, and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
- Professionalism & Work Ethic Career Competency: Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time workload management, and understand the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image. The individual demonstrates integrity and ethical behavior, acts responsibly with the interests of the larger institution in mind, and is able to learn from his/her mistakes.
- Teamwork & Collaboration Career Competency: Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints. The individual is able to work within a team structure, and can negotiate and manage conflict.
- Information Technology Application Career Competency: Leverage existing digital technologies ethically and efficiently to solve problems, complete tasks, and accomplish goals. The individual demonstrates effective adaptability to new and emerging technologies.
- Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Career Competency: Exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome problems. The individual is able to obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data in this process, and may demonstrate originality and inventiveness.
- Global & Intercultural Fluency Career Competency: Value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. The individual demonstrates openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences.
- Career Management Competency: Demonstrated ability to identify and articulate skills, strengths, knowledge, and experiences relevant to the position desired and career goals, can identify areas necessary for professional growth. The individual is able to navigate and explore job options, understands and can take the steps necessary to pursue an gain new skills to achieve goals, and understands how to self-advocate for opportunities in the workplace (career driven mindset).
Facilitating Alaska PEAK Conversations
- Determine whether a small group meeting or individual meetings will work best for your student employees.
- Send your student employees an email or paper memo (whichever works best in your area)
a week before your meeting as a reminder with the following information (example email
templates are included below):
- An explanation of why you are having these conversations
- The list of questions you’ll be discussing
- Instructions to think about these questions and have answers prepared for the meeting. Students should submit reflections prior to the meeting.
- Approach these questions as if you are having a conversation. Feel free to ask the questions in any order and let the conversation flow naturally. You may find it useful to brainstorm with other supervisors on the key things you expect students to learn from jobs in your area.
- If your student employees are having a hard time answering these questions, feel free to share your ideas or observations on what they are learning on the job.
- You may find it useful to take notes during the conversation to refer to in the next conversation.
- Wrap up the conversations by summarizing any outcomes or next steps from the conversation and reminding your student employees that you will be meeting again toward the end of the semester for a similar conversation.
- Supervisors are encouraged to provide students feedback after each meeting on each of their reflection questions and student employees are encouraged to review those comments for consideration. This feedback is recommended after the meeting because it may help serve as a summary of additional insights shared by the student during the meeting.
- Repeat step two in preparation for each Alaska PEAK Meeting.
You are welcome to you the follow templates as a guide for communicating with students about their upcoming Alaska PEAK conversations.
Email Template: Conversation #1
Hello [STUDENT NAME],
I just wanted to send out a quick reminder about our meeting next week and give you a little more information about our conversation. As part of your on-campus student employment experience, we facilitate a program called Alaska PEAK that is designed to help you make meaningful connections between what you’re learning in the classroom and what you're learning on the job. Making these connections contributes to your overall academic and personal success. Below is the list of questions that we will discuss during our conversation. Please take few moments to look over and reflect on these questions.
Often student employees make connections between their job and their studies. What are you learning in class that you can apply here at work? What skills would you like experience developing that you feel would better prepare you for the future?
See you next week!
Email Template: Conversation #2
Hello [STUDENT NAME],
I just wanted to send out a quick reminder about our meeting next week. We will be discussing what you are learning in the workplace and how this connects to your academics. Below is the list of questions that I will be asking you during our conversation. For this meeting think about anything new you have learned or noticed since we met last time.
What skills are you gaining in your job that you can apply to your future career and personal life?
What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in your position this semester?
How has your time in this role impacted your student experience at UAA?
See you next week!
Supervisors may find it helpful to start their conversations with some introductory questions before diving into the Alaska PEAK core questions. This may be especially helpful when developing relationships with new student employees or with new students early in their academic career. We encourage this kind of interaction to foster our culture of care at UAA. These are some example introductory questions:
- Have you declared an academic major? If yes, what is it and why is it of interest to you?
- What are your professional goals?
- Tell me about what you like to do outside of class and work? What are some of your hobbies or interests?
- Do you have specific expectations of this position to help you grow as a student and potential employee?
- What kind of experiences have you had interacting with individuals of diverse backgrounds?
For some students, additional questions may be helpful in supporting their learning and development. These are additional questions that supervisors may use in subsequent conversations and are intended for:
- Student employees who are beyond their first year of employment in your department
- Student employees with whom you have had more than two Alaska PEAK conversations
- Student employees in their junior or senior(+) years.
Skills we want employees to learn:
- What have you learned here [in this job] about working with diverse populations [or any other employment outcome] that you think might be helpful in your academic courses?
- What have you learned from your studies and classes so far about working with diverse populations that you find helpful in this job?
- When have you used conflict resolution skills [or any other employment outcome] at work and in class?
- What have you learned about communicating effectively with your supervisor that also is effective with faculty?
- What types of problems have you solved at work and how will you use that in your courses? [Note: supervisors may need to provide examples or prompts as this question is general]
- How has working as a team member here at work helped you with group projects in your classes?
Learning about oneself from employment:
- How has working here helped you with group projects?
- What are your strengths and how have you used them at work and in class?
- Are there aspects of this job that have helped you discover things you might want (or not want) in a career?
- If you could give yourself any advice starting your senior year of college over again to better prepare for graduation, what would it be?
Preparing for the world of full-time employment:
- What is one thing you’ve learned here about workplace culture and expectations that you think will help you in a full-time position?
- What areas of life after graduation, at this moment, do you wish you were better prepared for, if any?
- In a job interview, what would you say are your greatest strengths?
- In a job interview, what would you say are your greatest weaknesses?
Special thanks to the University of Iowa for their leadership in student employee assessment and to IOWA GROW ® for providing inspiration for Alaska PEAK. They have registered the program and assist other universities to implement similar programs across the United States. ©The University of Iowa.
For questions or comments regarding Alaska PEAK, please contact:
Molly Orheim, Director, Career Exploration and Services