Delivering inclusive career pathways at CU Boulder

A look inside how the University of Colorado Boulder is partnering with Riipen to encourage, enable, and execute work-based learning for all students across their campus.
June 15, 2023
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The institution

The University of Colorado Boulder is a renowned research-intensive (R1) institution dedicated to identifying and addressing the humanitarian, social and technological challenges of the 21st century. 

With innovation, leadership, and impact as top of mind core values, the University offers a comprehensive array of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs. 

The challenge

There are many challenges that arise when attempting to provide work-based learning and career development opportunities for an entire institution of learners. For CU Boulder, those challenges range from managing hundreds of work-based learning opportunities to providing students with intangible – or nontraditional – career paths the chance to witness how and where their skills can be transferred into the workforce. 

The work-based learning champion 

Dylan Mark, Program Manager for Professional Experiences and Kelly Chastain, Interim Program Manager for Professional Experiences – and the broader Career Services team at CU Boulder– are committed to providing students with tangible experiential learning projects. 

Central to the mindset at CU Boulder is lowering barriers for students as they develop different skill sets and explore multiple career avenues. “When it comes to offering students work-based learning opportunities, it is really important to us that we provide projects that align with the range of student objectives and interests,” says Chastain. “We’ve found that not only is it more engaging for students, it’s actually removing barriers for some of our most vulnerable populations of students.”

The partnership

Since 2020, Riipen has been integrated into the ongoing initiatives that the CU Career Services team offers. Most notably, Riipen is a core component of Buff Works, a work-based learning program that engages teams of students – regardless of skill level or discipline – in applying their knowledge and skills to real-world projects. “Our efforts with Buff Works are meant to reflect trends in the workforce that require proof of skills and experience from students,” Dylan Mark stated. “The advantage to the program is that it brings together students from different schools within the University.”

“When we think about project-based learning, we expand the opportunities to everyone on our campus,” Chastain said. “In doing so, we help our students see the benefit of working with others from different perspectives or majors. We chose Riipen precisely because of that.”

The impact of projects and employer connections provided by Riipen have given way to a long-term partnership with CU Boulder that helps to address ongoing challenges and disruptions to the University’s career development efforts. 

The outcome 

As Chastain explained so well, “Students come to get an education to develop in-demand skills and exposure to industry. We have to ask ourselves how we are going to provide the best opportunities for students to succeed in their careers.” In an effort to address this concern and bring career development to fruition, Riipen has sourced diverse projects for teams of students across CU Boulder within the program that range from market research and data analysis to social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Riipen was pre-made and pre-built for us with a database and team-based environment that allows students insight into what the industry is looking for. It really helps us to see the issues and problems in industry and understand how our student population is uniquely positioned to help,” Chastain said. 

Sustained success

Upon reflecting on the impact of the Riipen and Buff Works partnership, Dylan Mark stated, “We see it as a path to fill in the gaps for student experience.” In fact, CU Boulder is looking forward to expanding their efforts in offering work-based learning experiences for their students, in both a co-curricular and curricular sense. “We are open to figuring out the avenues we can implement Riipen within specific disciplines and departments,” Mark said. 

In the end, as CU Boulder aspires to remove barriers to career development for each and every student, Riipen has enabled and inspired learners across campus to collaborate with peers and projects outside their core field of study, recruited and supported the participation of historically underserved students and aligned Career Services with what's happening in the economy and higher ed more broadly. The ability to impact learning and career growth at such levels within the institution tells an encouraging story of success – at both the individual student and institutional level.  


About Riipen

As the world's largest online work-based learning marketplace, Riipen makes it easy for higher education institutions and industry partners to collaborate on flexible project-based experiential learning opportunities embedding real-life business challenges directly into the curriculum. To learn more about our innovative work-based learning platform and how working with Riipen can result in improved student engagement and student employability outcomes, please use this link to request a call with the Riipen team.

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