The Interview USA
Purdue Global
Vice President of Student and Career Advancement

Jennifer Lasater

In the modern educational landscape, universities bear the dual responsibility of stimulating intellectual growth and fostering career development to help students succeed in an increasingly competitive global market. This understanding is central to the work of Jennifer Lasater, Vice President of Student and Career Advancement at the online university Purdue Global.

In today’s conversation, Jennifer met with Chris Mansfield, GoodCourse’s Client Services Lead, to discuss issues ranging from Purdue Global's focus on career outcomes and student success to the importance of engagement for student development. 

Jennifer's Journey

Chris: Can we start with a quick introduction to yourself and your institution?

I’m the Vice President of Student and Career Advancement at Purdue Global. I’m a first-generation student with a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. I have a background in recruitment, staffing, and student affairs, and my work at Purdue Global is the perfect opportunity to combine student success with career advancement. 

Purdue Global is Purdue’s online university for working adults. We have about 35,000 students, who are primarily over the age of 30. The majority of our students are women and first-generation students, and many of them have dependents. 30% of our learning community is military affiliated, from veterans, to active duty, to military spouses. So, a huge part of our mission is making sure that learning fits in with people’s lives and careers. It’s really an amazing place to work. 

Chris: Your university has a unique student body. What main areas are you prioritizing when it comes to improving student outcomes?

My main focus is student outcomes. Our Center for Career Advancement works one-on-one with students – we don’t wait for them to ask for help; instead, we have a team that reaches out to students three terms before graduation to help students figure out where they want to be and how to get there. Our team is all about relationship-building – with our students, with employers, and with all the other departments on campus.

Another key area is student success. In the last year, we’ve added a new student success coaching team of 28 people. Again, that team is responsible for reaching out to students to help with issues like time management and basic needs support. We try to go out and intervene before a problem becomes a crisis. 

My final focus is federal work-study. Here in the US, federal work-study is available for students in financial need. At Purdue Global, we’ve structured our federal work-study to make sure that our students are working in the fields of interest they are enrolled in so they can build their experience and add to their resumes while getting paid. For example, we work with many different non-profit organizations that have ties to our programs of study. It’s really beneficial for students who want to get the work experience they need to reach the next step in their career journey while attending college.

Chris: What are your strategies for effectively engaging students on these topics?

You need to meet students where they are. For example, we’ve worked really closely with our academic partners for every program of study to identify three career touch-points for each degree. Then, we go into those classes to deliver career-related content. We’re infusing it into the classroom experience to make sure students get what they need to be successful. That will help to instill confidence so that when students enter the job search phase, they will know what to do.

Chris: Communication is key to student engagement. How do you encourage students to have constructive conversations across difference?

At Purdue Global, each student receives a skills report. This report includes seven professional skills, including leadership, communication, and problem-solving. At least three times in every program, we embed assignments tied to those professional skills. So, students will not be just assigned a grade but also assessed on skills such as communication. It’s an opportunity for students to broaden their perspective and become more effective in the workplace. 

Chris: It can be difficult to keep students engaged. What’s your approach to making sure students continue to develop?

Collaboration is key. When we connect with students, there is a shared sense of partnership and accountability. When students are in an active job search, ideally, we meet with them every other week. We’ll find relevant jobs that fit their skills and interests discuss how they should apply, and customize their resume to help them rise to the top of the pile. But we’ll also ask what they’ve been doing to find a job and give them feedback. We want to reinforce the skills and knowledge needed to search throughout their career. We also customize our support to fit each student’s needs; someone working in the C-Suite will need different advice than someone looking for their first job, for example. When it comes to student success, we’re connecting with a student but then also checking back with them to ensure that they have addressed their particular issue and have learned some strategies on how to deal with obstacles in the future. 

Chris: The field of higher education is changing quickly. How do you encourage colleagues to stay open to new ideas and approaches?

For me, it all comes back to relationships. More specifically, relationships based on feedback and data-sharing. For example, when Covid started in 2020, we started hearing about many layoffs in the hospitality industry. We realized there are many people with great experience in hospitality, but they might not have the degrees or qualifications needed to switch fields. So, Purdue Global created a new Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management program, where students could use their prior work experience as part of their portfolio to gain credit for what they already know and use on the job. We had that program up and running within a year, and we now have over 700 students enrolled. We’ve also learned that it’s benefitting people in other industries as well, not just in hospitality. That’s just one example of how collaboration can create exciting new opportunities.

Chris: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Do what you love, and everything else will fall into place. It hasn’t failed me yet!

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Chris Mansfield
Client Services
Chris is one of the Client Service leads at GoodCourse, dedicated to helping institutions better engage their audience to create a more inclusive, safer, and more successful environment. To request to be featured on the series, get in touch at

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