Journal of the NACAA
ISSN 2158-9429
Volume 11, Issue 1 - June, 2018


Effect Of Undergraduate Participation In An Equine-Focused Organization On Employment Expectations

Walker, N. , Associate Professor & Equine Specialist, LSU Agricultural Center
Cater, M., Associate Professor & Program Evaluation Specialist, LSU Agricultural Center
Leatherwood, J., Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University


The role of extracurricular activities on employment is poorly understood. Students with job-related experience receive increased employment opportunities, yet the importance of the venue where those skills are obtained is unclear. This study examined the impact participation in extracurricular equine organizations like ACHA had on perceived career goals. Results indicate students believe the education they receive benefits their career goals, expect equine industry employment that requires advanced degrees, and least expect to be employed in retail. Results suggest students’ academic expectations may predict vocational expectations. Undergraduate educators can utilize employment-related extracurricular activities as a valuable non-formal educational opportunity.

Keywords: Vocational expectations, academic expectations, higher education equine programs, agricultural education, student organization


In addition to a formal education, undergraduate student involvement in extracurricular activities has been shown to increase academic and professional development. Research has demonstrated that students who participate in some form of extracurricular activity benefit from a higher GPA (Hawkins, 2010; Jones et al., 2014), increased critical thinking and interpersonal skills (Ewing et al., 2009; Gellin, 2003; Moore et al., 2008), increased retention and graduation rates (Astin, 1996; Wang and Shively, 2009); as well as the ability to create positive attitudes, values and aspirations (Montelongo, 2002).

Many students attend college to attain employment; 85% of students enter college with a career goal in mind and 37% indicate that they would drop out if a degree was not pertinent to gaining employment (Levine and Cureton, 1998). Additionally, a student’s perception of their college education is directly linked to how that education prepares them for the workforce (DuPre and Williams, 2011). The link between education and the experiences that enhance employment preparedness are becoming more important as employers’ need for experienced employees increase. Koc (2010) reported that employers are placing additional importance on hiring graduates with relevant work experience which is supported by the finding that academic performance is not enough to secure a job (Koc and Koncz, 2009).

Currently there is limited data available to explain the impact of participation in extracurricular activities on career choice (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005), however research has shown that many career-related skills are developed in non-traditional, out-of-classroom settings (Heckman, 1999) and that students who do not participate in extracurricular activities achieve lower occupational success than those who do participate (Tchibozo, 2007). This creates an opportunity for interest-based clubs to provide non-formal educational opportunities and connect students to industry professionals. 

The American Collegiate Horseman’s Association (ACHA) is a national student run organization whose goal is to unify collegiate horsemen of all levels and disciplines through the promotionion of leadership, education, service, and national affiliations. Each year the ACHA holds a National Convention at which all schools affiliated with the organization are invited to experience different aspects of the horse industry and various employment and higher education opportunities available across the country. The National Convention is hosted by a different university each year and provides an exciting non-formal educational experience. Promoting networking, internships, and engagement with industry professionals is an important opportunity offered at ACHA national convention. 

Theoretical Framework

This study is grounded in Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT; Lent et al., 2002). SCCT posits that career development occurs within the context of a triad of interacting mechanisms: personal goals, outcome expectations, and self-efficacy. This study delved into the influence of choice goals, specifically the career a person wishes to pursue; outcome expectations, a person’s beliefs about the value of specific actions; and interests, defined as events as person enjoys, dislikes, or is apathetic about (Lent and Brown, 2006). If a student perceives that participation in the ACHA conference will result in a better employment opportunity or greater career satisfaction, then the student is more likely to participate in the conference.

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this study was to examine ACHA student conference participants’ career expectations. The objectives of the study include the following:

Objective 1. To describe ACHA student conference participants’ perceived interest in attending ACHA and academic and vocational expectations.

Objective 2. To describe ACHA student conference participants’ 5 year career employment expectations.

Objective 3. To determine if a model exists that describes ACHA student conference participants’ vocational expectations.



Population and Sample

Eighty-nine (n=89) out of one hundred and three (86.4%) students attending the 2016 annual national American Collegiate Horseman’s Association convention participated in this project. Of the respondents 88.6 % were female and 11.4% were male. The majority of participants were seniors (35.2%) and juniors (28.4%), however underclassmen also participated: sophomores (19.3%) and freshmen (17%). Most participants reported living in a rural area (60.5%), while 36% reported living in a suburban and 3.5 % in an urban environment. Participants were also asked to categorize their involvement in the equine industry. 85.4% indicated that they participated in the recreational aspects of the industry, 55.1% indicated they participated in the competition aspect of the industry, and 50.6% indicated that they were employed in some aspect of the equine industry.


Perceived interest in participating in national ACHA events. The construct was operationally defined as factors affecting a person’s perception of the appeal of participating in national ACHA events. The opportunity to network with people sharing similar interests is an example of one factor that influenced interest. Psychometric analysis of the four researcher-developed items revealed that 42.1% of the variance was explained. The Cronbach’s alpha reliability estimate for the items was 0.74.

Academic expectations. Academic expectations was defined as a student's confidence to meet educational obligations. Six items were developed specifically for this study to assess this latent construct. An example item from the construct was “How confident are you in your ability to meet the following academic expectation: self-motivation?” Responses were collected using a 4-point anchored scale: 1 = not confident at all; 2 = somewhat confident; 3 = confident; 4 = very confident. Two rounds of field testing were conducted with the survey items. No changes to item wording were needed as a result of the field tests, thus psychometric properties of the construct were examined. Exploratory factor analysis revealed that the six items explained 79.2% of the variance in the construct academic expectations. Analysis of the internal consistency of the scale suggested excellent reliability with a Cronbach’s alpha of .88.

Vocational outcomes expectations. Vocational outcomes expectations were assessed using the Vocational Outcome Expectations Scale (McWhirter et al., 2000; Metheny, 2009). Vocational expectations was operationally defined as a student’s anticipated results derived from engaging in a career. This scale consisted of 12 items with responses collected using a 4-point Likert-type scale: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree, 4 = strongly agree. An example item from the scale was “my career planning will lead to a satisfying career for me.” Internal consistency reliability of the scale was assessed using the data collected for the study reported here. The Cronbach’s alpha for the present study was .93.

Career employment expectations. Six items created specifically for this study were used to collect student career employment expectations. Students were offered a list of career options and asked to select the position that they expected to hold five after college graduation. Responses were coded 0 = not selected or 1 = selected. Each position type included example jobs in parenthesis: industry (consultant, product research and development); professional (veterinarian); academic (teacher, researcher); trade (horse trainer, horse shoer); retail (tack, feed store); association (show management, discipline association).

Data Collection                                                             

A survey was created to assess student perception of the benefits of participating in an equine focused collegiate association. A paper survey was made available during the 2016 national convention and collected on the last night of convention. The survey included 15 questions, including demographic information such as age, gender, academic classification, and environment in which they lived. The survey procedures were approved by the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center’s Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Data Analysis

Study objectives 1 and 2 were descriptive in nature. For objective 1, mean values were computed for each individual, and the overall group means and standard deviations were reported. Objective 2 consisted of nominal data for which frequencies and percentages were computed. Study objective 3 sought to determine if interest in ACHA events, academic and career employment expectations were predictive of vocational outcome expectations. Sequential linear regression was used. Scores were deemed univariate outliers if they exceeded ±3.29 standard deviations from the mean (p < .001; Tabachnick and Fidell, 2013). Normality, linearity, and independence of residuals were assessed, respectively, with a scatterplot, P-P plot, and Durbin-Watson statistic.



The purpose of objective 1 was to describe ACHA student conference participants’ perceived interest in attending the ACHA conference and academic and vocational outcome expectations. A mean value was created for each item of the Perceived Interest in ACHA Events, Academic Expectations, and Vocational Expectations scales. The overall group mean for perceived interest in ACHA events was 5.20 (SD = 0.64; Range = 3.50 – 6.00), suggesting that participants were interested in participating in ACHA events. The overall group mean for academic expectations was 3.60 (SD = 0.47; Range = 2.00 – 4.00), indicating that participants were confident about their ability to meet academic expectations. Examination of the overall group mean revealed that participants seemed to agree that their actions should lead to the vocational outcomes that they expect (M = 3.51; SD = 0.42; Range = 2.67 – 4.00). 

The purpose of objective 2 was to describe ACHA student conference participants’ 5 year career employment expectations. The largest percentage of students expected to be working in industry within the first five years of employment (Table 1).


Table 1. Frequency and percentage of collegiate ACHA participants' preferred careers five years post-collegiate graduation. Note: three people did not respond to this item.

 Expected Career 5 Years Post-College Graduation

























The purpose of objective 3 was to determine if a model exists that describes ACHA student conference participants’ vocational outcome expectations. Two univariate outliers were identified and removed from the analysis leaving 87 responses for the regression analysis. Examination of the scatterplot and P-P plot provided evidence that the assumptions of normality and linearity were met. The Durbin-Watson statistic was 1.90, indicating that the assumption of independence of residuals was met.

An examination of the analysis of variance results indicates that both the simpler model (Model 1) and the more complex model (Model 2) were significant (Model 1:  F(1, 82) = 42.20, p < 0.001; Model 2: F(7, 76) = 42.20, p < 0.001). This suggests that both models significantly improve our ability to predict vocational outcome expectations. Table 2 displays the unstandardized regression coefficients (B), intercept, and standardized regression coefficients (B) after entry of the independent variables into the model. In Model 1, R was significantly different from zero, R2 = 0.34 with 95% confidence limits from 0.18 to 0.50, F(1, 82) = 42.20, p < .001. The R2 value of 0.34 indicates that approximately 34% of the variability in vocational expectations is predicted by academic expectations. The effect size was large (f2 = 0.52; Cohen, 1988). The predictive capability of the model was not significantly improved by adding career employment expectations and interest in ACHA events to the model (Fchg (6, 76) = 1.58, p = 0.165). That is, the change in the F-value from Model 1 to Model 2 was not statistically significant. Thus, Modal 1 was retained as the best fitting model.


Table 2: Linear regression of vocational expectations and the independent variable academic expectations. This table displays the unstandardized regression coefficients (B), standard error (SE B), standardized regression coefficients (B), and 95% confidence limits (Cl), after entry of the independent variables into the model.

  B SE B B 95% CI

 Model 1






       Academic Expectations




[0.36 to 0.68]

 Model 2






        Academic Expectations




[0.29 to 0.65]


 ACHA Participation Expectations




[-0.06 to 0.20]

 Anticipate Professional Career vs. Industry Career Expectations




[0.01 to 0.38]

 Anticipate Academic Career vs. Industry Career Expectations




[-0.31 to 0.29]

 Anticipate Trade Career vs. Industry Career Expectations




[-0.29 to 0.19]

 Anticipate Retail Career vs. Industry Career Expectations




[-0.38 to 0.23]

 Anticipate Association Career vs. Industry Career Expectations




[-0.16 to 0.44]



Conclusions, Recommendations, and Implications

The overall collegiate experience varies between students; however the large majority attends with the goal of increasing employment options. With 85% of all students entering college with a career goal in mind (Levine & Cureton, 1998), it is not difficult to explain that participants in this study are confident that the education they are receiving will help them achieve their specific vocational goals, as indicated by the results of our first objective.  Student participants also reported that they would expect to be employed in the equine industry in fields that require advanced degrees such as industry representatives and professional occupations like veterinarian within 5 years following graduation, suggesting that students participating in ACHA have a high level of commitment to education and career planning.

This study also produced a model that suggested that academic expectations can predict vocational outcomes.  This replicates the theme of one of the newer adaptations of the Social Cognitive Model of Career Self-Management which suggests that goal-directed actions make it more likely that people will attain the outcomes (a specific career) that they seek (Lent & Brown, 2013). While the sample size is a limitation for this study, the large effect size suggests the magnitude of the relationship between the two variables is meaningful. This suggests that educators may be able to utilize vocational expectations of academically lower performing students to motivate an increase in academic output.

Research suggests that students who participate in interest based extracurricular activities are more highly intrinsically motivated to succeed in their respective career field (Tchibozo, 2007). Students who participated in this study at the National ACHA convention are no exception, indicating that they may be more motivated and career focused than lower performing students who would not attend professional development conferences. Among the list of benefits, students who participate in extracurricular activities like the American Collegiate Horseman’s Association are exposed to a wide variety of internship opportunities that increase their experience and therefore likelihood of increased employment options. Unfortunately, no data was collected from a comparison group, which is a limitation of this study. 

Extracurricular activities also have been shown to provide students an additional opportunity to increase positive faculty relationships (Mahoney, 2000; Posner and Vandell, 1999; Retallick and Pate, 2009). This facilitates a unique setting for advisors to assist students in exploring vocational goals that may be useful in driving academic performance. Extension professionals and professors have the opportunity to develop internship programs that utilize an untapped volunteer workforce. Students who are motivated to enhance resumes and explore potential future employment opportunities can be a valuable resource in educational youth extension programs. Adult extension programs also offer collegiate students an opportunty to enhance their knowledge while networking with potential future employers. Recruitment of collegiate students into extension programs therefore not only benefits the students' vocational goals, but also develops a reciprocal relationship that becomes mutually beneficial to the mission of Extension. While this supports the Social Cognitive Career Theory that suggests that students will put more effort into performance if they think said performance will benefit their long term goals, interest in attending the National ACHA convention was not a significant predictor of vocational expectations in this study. While educators strive to provide educational settings to prepare students for their desired career goals, exposure to national vocational opportunities can be an effective recruitment tool for participation in extracurricular activities and should be included in a well-rounded educational experience. 



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