Trust Navigator helps college students prepare for life beyond academia


When students head to college, they expect to receive four years of learning and, hopefully, to graduate with a career plan and a good job lined up. But Tom Roulston noticed a disturbing discrepancy. “Seventy percent of seniors really don’t know what they want to do when they graduate,” he says. “And 50 percent are unemployed or underemployed when they graduate.”

So Roulston created Trust Navigator, a multi-tiered program that supplements the book smarts taught in colleges with some networking, life lessons and guidance to prepare students for successful careers. Trust Navigator will work with colleges to provide the “real world” component of education.

“We have created a platform with schools that allows you to take a lot of different tests, identify interests, passions, strengths and weaknesses,” Roulston explains. “We’ve archived interviews with hundreds of thousands of individuals, asking them ‘what do you do, how did you get started, how much money did you make when you started and what was your career path?’”

The Trust Navigator program has four components. First, students take classes in addition to their academic work, that teach “real world” lessons. “There are classes that supplement academic work – life skills, communication skills, financial literacy, how to buy healthcare insurance, networking and communications.”

Second, Trust Navigator offers experiential learning, with events that re-engage alumni with the campus. The third component involves an online form to partner students with different organizations and identify career interests.

The fourth tier focuses on success coaching and testing and surveys to identify career paths. “Someone who will sit with these students every month and ask them what courses they are taking,” says Roulston.

Trust Navigator is a “pay-to-play” program that Roulston says will alleviate the problem of college grads with tons of debt and no job, as well as encourage alumni to be more involved with their alma maters. “Large gift giving has increased over the years, but annual fund participation has dropped pretty dramatically,” says Roulston of alumni support. “More and more kids aren’t finding jobs right away, don’t have money and blame the colleges. There’s $1.3 trillion in student debt.”

Roulston closed his investment research business last year to focus on Trust Navigator. He plans to be in five to 10 colleges of varying sizes this fall.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.