As part of a concerted Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Eagles Engaged, The University of Southern Mississippi has selected April Gonzalez as Director of Pathway Experiences after completion of a national search.
Gonzalez brings 16 years of experience to the role, which will focus on connecting more undergraduate students to internships and fieldwork linked to their post-graduation goals.
“I am excited to be joining this new initiative as part of the University's Quality Enhancement Plan and leading the Center for Pathway Experiences toward increasing opportunities for Southern Miss students to pursue internship, fieldwork and other experiential learning experiences,” said Gonzalez. “Throughout my career in higher education, I have seen first-hand how experiential learning can be a meaningful, impactful experience for a student’s personal and professional growth, and I look forward to being a part of this effort at Southern Miss to impact the lives of our students.”
Gonzalez has worked in higher education within both public and private universities with her most recent experience working with the College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee as its career consultant. Her previous background includes roles at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as the associate director of the Employer Connection Programs, assistant director and business career advisor and at Philadelphia University as a career counselor.
While at UNC Charlotte, she oversaw the Experiential Learning Program as a part of the University Career Center, which included both academic transcript notation internships and cooperative education experiences.
Dr. Julie Howdeshell, Director of Quality Enhancement at Southern Miss, spearheaded the search committee that led to Gonzalez’ selection.
“Nationally, employers and graduate schools are seeking students that have applied the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom in contexts outside of the classroom, and more students are seeking such experiences,” said Howdeshell. “The University of Southern Mississippi wants students to know that they have the resources and support to pursue participation in pathway experiences locally, nationally, and internationally. Ms. Gonzalez brings a foundation of expertise and experience to this position and we are excited about the impact that the emphasis on pathways will have on student learning, post-graduation opportunities, and recruitment of new students.”
Development of pathway experiences is a component of the University Quality Enhancement Plan required for reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Dr. Bill Powell, Associate Provost for Assessment and Accreditation, was a member of the search team along with representative faculty and staff from both the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses.
“We are delighted that Southern Miss students can benefit from Ms. Gonzalez’ extensive background in developing pathway experiences,” said Powell. “We look forward to her contributions to our innovative Quality Enhancement Plan.”
Gonzalez will work closely with faculty to develop new pathway experiences for undergraduate students and will collaborate with the Center for Undergraduate Research, Career Services, and other campus and community partners.
Rusty Anderson, Director of Career Services, noted: “The addition of the pathways experience program on our campus will allow a much needed concentration on developing learning opportunities for our students. Employers and graduate school admissions officers often cite a preference for students with career related experiences or research backgrounds. The Pathways Experience opportunities will give Southern Miss students a competitive edge in career progression.”
Gonzalez holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from Maryville College located in Maryville, Tenn., and a Master of Education with a concentration in College Student Personnel from The Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
Professional association involvement includes currently holding the office of Director of Finance for the Southern Association of Colleges and Employers (SoACE), membership within the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), and previous memberships within the Tennessee Association of Colleges and Employers (TACE), the Oak Ridge Human Resources Association (ORHRA), the North Carolina Association of Colleges and Employers (NCACE), the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, and the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers (EACE). From 2012-2015, she served as Treasurer of TACE.
To learn more about pathway experiences at Southern Miss, visit www.usm.edu/pathways.