We created Iowa GROW® in 2009 and have since implemented it across the Division of Student Life (view our timeline). Supervisors in the Division are expected to have two Iowa GROW® conversations (individual or small group format) with student employees each semester. Our data, collected yearly, continue to show tremendous benefits for students who participate in work-academic connection conversations with their supervisors.

Highlights of our findings:

  • Iowa GROW® participants were more likely to agree/strongly agree that their job was helping them attain our outcomes of student employment.
  • Iowa GROW® participants were more likely to report that their student employment helped them gain work and career related skills, form relationships, improve their time management skills, and enhance their communication skills.
  • Non-GROW participants were more likely to report that the major benefit of being a student employee was simply earning money.
  • Iowa GROW® participants were more likely to report that they gain problem solving abilities, communication skills, and general work habits as a student employee
  • Non-GROW participants were more likely to report that they learned no new skills as a result of being a student employee
  • Students who perceived the conversation as a work-academic connection conversation received the benefits of Iowa GROW®, reinforcing the need to be explicit about Iowa GROW® conversations.

View the 2021 Iowa GROW® summary for a more detailed report of our findings and the supplemental summary of our qualitative data. View a summary of the connection between student employment and student success.

View the data from past Iowa GROW® surveys:

Integrating Iowa GROW® into Our Culture

Iowa GROW® conversations are new for some supervisors, while others have been having work-academic conversations with their students all along. Iowa GROW® helps to provide additional structure to something that many supervisors already do and helpful support for supervisors newer to work-academic conversations. Within the Division of Student Life, we have also made additional changes to focus on student employment as a learning activity:

  • Many student employee job descriptions and recruitment materials now include “what you will learn” language in addition to a list of job duties.
  • Orientations for new student employees introduce Iowa GROW® as a part of our Division culture – evidence that we truly care about what students are doing on the job, but even more, what they are learning on the job.
  • Performance appraisal instruments for permanent staff members across the Division include compliance with Iowa GROW® as a performance expectation.

Culture change takes time, and we have learned a lot through our Iowa GROW® process. This website is a way to share lessons learned with other campuses. Visit the Implementation page for detailed information on implementing Iowa GROW®. Feel free to email us for additional help or consultation on implementing Iowa GROW® on your campus.

Utilizing Iowa GROW® in Other Settings

One aspect of creating a holistic student experience is purposefully linking students’ experiences. Iowa GROW® is an adaptable framework that can be used to encourage regular reflection, connection, and integration beyond employment. The questions are flexible enough to be used across a student’s experience, from student organization experiences to internships to study abroad, but it’s important to remember that the conversation is the intervention. It’s not just about the opportunity to reflect, but also the feedback loop created between the student and the staff/faculty member. We encourage you to utilize this framework to support student reflection across multiple experiences.