How the GPS Program Helps Students Speak Up


At the heart of AUP’s global liberal arts approach to higher education is a belief that learning is a lifelong commitment. Theory studied in class can be applied to students’ professional and personal lives, and the experiences students engage in outside of the classroom are just as important as in-class study. 

The Global Professional Skills (GPS) Program is AUP’s flagship co-curricular initiative. It encourages degree-seeking undergraduate students to engage in a wide range of experiences during higher education, placing personal development on a par with academic achievement in preparing for a meaningful career.

All degree-seeking undergraduate students are enrolled in the program as standard; though completing it remains optional, over 70% of all students take part. GPS lasts throughout all four years of a student’s time at AUP, and completing the program satisfies the experiential learning requirement of the core academic curriculum. “We want GPS to be an integral part of AUP’s academic culture,” explains Lilyana Yankova, GPS Program Manager.  “Experiential learning is a crucial part of an AUP education.” 

Participants fulfill a series of co-curricular requirements through activities such as club participation, study trip attendance, internships, and mentoring programs, which all get recorded on a co-curricular record. This certificate can later be presented to potential employers or graduate admissions counselors as proof of the student’s well-rounded experience. All those who successfully complete the program also receive an additional cord to wear during the graduation ceremony.  

But completing GPS is about much more than recognition; it is about the personal and professional development that is an integral part of post-graduation success. More than 85% of participants reported that they felt prepared for life after AUP once they completed the program. To begin to understand just how beneficial the program is to AUP’s global explorers, we can look at three key benefits students get from committing to the program. 

1) GPS Encourages Purposefulness and Intentionality

A key aim of GPS is to help students develop a coherent narrative about their pathway through higher education and toward a meaningful career. Participants take a step back and examine their own unique approach to their university experience, so when the moment comes to tell their story, they can produce an impactful, effective narrative.

The three compulsory design thinking workshops are a vital part of this process. GPS participants meet to reflect on the current stage of their academic journey, so they know why, for example, they selected a particular major or pursued their chosen internship. “We help students connect the dots between their different experiences, between their curricular and cocurricular paths,” explains Yankova. “And we teach them to communicate that intentionality to others.” 

The process helps students reframe accomplishments that aren’t always considered professional development in ways that turn them into key strengths for employers, while also considering how their own values play into this narrative. “GPS helps me make a clear educational path leading to where I aim to be professionally,” says one recent participant. 

2) GPS Develops Confidence 

Once students have pinpointed their pathway, they begin to see how having a unique, outside-the-box story can be extremely valuable. But there is still an important step in learning to articulate that story confidently. It doesn’t matter if someone has, for example, changed major or pursued multiple interests, so long as it is explained in a way that is persuasive and coherent. “The program gives students a voice,” says Yankova. “They tell their own story through the activities they take part in beyond the classroom.” 

The program doesn’t just strengthen skills such as interdisciplinarity, critical thinking, flexibility and agility, it teaches students how to recognize and harness the strengths they already have. “GPS gave me the confidence to apply to a globally ranked top university, which is something I would not have done otherwise,” says one participant. 

The GPS Panel Presentations, which are a public speaking contest open to all juniors and seniors that takes place in the final week of the Spring semester, show this process in action. Willing GPS participants present their pitches in front of a panel of judges made up of alumni, faculty and professionals from relevant industries. This allows them to practice public speaking and test-run their narratives in front of potential employers. The candidate judged to give the most convincing presentation is awarded a €1,000 prize. 

3) GPS Creates Community 

GPS is also a fantastic way for students to get to know their peers outside of their major and interact with the wider AUP community. It brings together professionals, alumni, staff, faculty members and students from all departments, encouraging interaction and collaboration among those who might not otherwise work together. “Having a community of people that are trying to succeed under the umbrella of GPS allows us to bolster conversations and learning,” explains one participant. 

The program currently has 15 partnerships with faculty members running experiential learning opportunities across AUP. It also encourages student participation in faculty projects and collaborations with external professionals. One example: in Spring 2023, students helped organize an exhibition in the AUP Library highlighting women in the Francophone comic book industry, which included inviting several outside professionals to speak at events.  

By engaging in a wide range of activities across the University, students deepen their experience and understanding of where the global liberal arts can take them. Like the global positioning system that gives it its name, the GPS Program helps students find their way – and ensures they can confidently and intentionally communicate the road they traveled to get there.