Honors College Continues Creating Student and Alumni Connections
For its fourth consecutive year, the Kent State University Honors College is hosting “Career Conversations,” a series of alumni speaking events which take place throughout the fall semester. This year, the sessions are again taking place virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and brings current honors students together in conversation with Honors College and Kent State alumni from across the country.
Each individual session features multiple Kent State alumni panelists from similar industries, as a member of the Honors College staff interacts and asks questions during the virtual meeting, focusing on their field/industry, Kent State education and current career. Students are encouraged to attend the events pertaining to careers in their field or of interest and engage and ask their own questions during the Zoom discussion. The industries covered during the series vary greatly and focus on areas with great student interest, ranging from behavioral health to research, fashion and beyond. With more than 10,000 career-ready graduates each year, and over 262,000 alumni worldwide, the “Career Conversations” series shows great promise, as it continues to introduce new industry topics and Kent State alumni each season.
Theresa Yogi, scholarship coordinator and academic advisor for the Honors College, created the “Career Conversations” Series in 2017 and commented that, “The goal of this program is to engage our alumni while helping our students to find their passion and build the best resume they can for the future.” Yogi explained that she feels the biggest achievement of the program over the past four years has been, “Still being able to offer the program throughout the pandemic in a virtual space.” She added that, “This actually helped the program grow immensely as we were able to engage alumni outside of Northeast Ohio.” Through in-person and virtual discussions, the Honors College has been able to provide connections and experiences for 750 student attendees, over the last four years.
To date, “Career Conversations” has hosted nearly 140 total Kent State alumni, including 32 speakers this fall, and connect digitally from locations all over the United States. During the 2020 Fall Semester, one alum even joined a Zoom call to speak on their experience all the way from South Korea, who attended despite the drastic time difference, waking in the early morning hours before sunrise to participate in the conversation with Kent State students and staff.
The virtual option for these discussions has not only allowed the Honors College to engage and hear from a world of alumni; it also allows the students as viewers, a sneak-peak into the work environment of the speakers. While some alumni connect to the online sessions via their office work environment, others connect from home, via telecommuting options or even from other favorite work environments, such as local coffee shops. The experience allows the students to meet the employees at their level, wherever that may be, and gives an idea of the reality of the individual’s work environment and day-to-day activities and structure.
Many students have found through these informal conversations that those in their intended career field may have followed a very unorthodox path, leading them to their current career. During the first “Career Conversations” event of the 2021 Fall Semester, Kent State alum Madeline Buczkowski, ’15, explained that although she was speaking at this event for alumni who work in data analytics, her career background and undergraduate coursework were in unrelated fields.
As a student at Kent State, Buczkowski was a musical theatre major, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a minor in business. Buczkowski currently serves as an associate for Pallas Advisors, a strategic advisory firm specializing in national security, defense and innovation in Washington, D.C. During the fall 2021 series, she explained that her daily work revolves around five to six private clients and their technologies, and that she is responsible for “taking their data analytics or financial numbers, and communicating them in a way that non-data people can understand what they mean, especially in terms of success and what their products do.”
Kaylene Trimmer, academic advisor for the Honors College, assists with planning these “Career Conversations” events each year, and notes that students are never too early in their collegiate career to gain knowledge and information from these discussions. “I don’t believe that there is a better way to learn about a job or an industry than to speak to someone who is working in said job/industry,” Trimmer explained. She remarked that many jobs are not published on publicly available job search sites and that research has also shown that more than half of open job positions are filled through networking. “For our upperclassmen students, ‘Career Conversations’ is a fantastic networking opportunity. Connecting with alumni is a great way for our students to get connected with internships, mentors, and future career opportunities in the career field of interest,” Trimmer commented.
Throughout the events, alumni have shared an abundance of career and industry knowledge but have also provided insight and advice regarding a student’s college experience in general. As Michael Back, a spring 2021 Honors College graduate and current graduate student in Kent State’s ecology and evolutionary biology program, encouraged students to, “Be curious. Ask questions. Reach out to people ... find what you love to do, because that’s important, but it may take time.”
Other alumni also encourage students to explore opportunities for professional development during their undergraduate experience. Ann Stankiewicz, Ph.D., a senior study management leader at Roche Diagnostics Operations and Honor College alumna, explained that “I think it’s important to have a professional standing, and one way to do that is to join your professional society.” Stankiewicz explained that during her college experience, she decided to join the American Chemical Society to strengthen her own professional standing.
As the “Career Conversations” Series continues to grow in student attendance and alumni support each year, series creator Yogi noted that she will continue to focus on the most popular industries based on the Honors College’s student interest and declared majors, while also exposing students to new areas that have yet to be offered in previous seasons. Yogi concluded, “Our alumni work in such diverse areas. This program shows our students the opportunities are endless.”
For more information and a calendar of upcoming “Career Conversations” events, please visit www.kent.edu/honors/CareerConversations2021. Any student or employee of the university may attend the sessions. No registration is required.
Events are held from 4-5 p.m. on weekdays during the fall semester. Any alumni of Kent State wishing to speak at a future event may contact Theresa Yogi at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information regarding speaking opportunities and future events.
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PHOTO CAPTION: Photo of “Career Conversations” Series in-person event held in the Honors College Library.
Stephanie Moskal, Honors College Marketing Coordinator, email@example.com, 330-672-2312
Theresa Yogi (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kaylene Trimmer (email@example.com), “Career Conversations” Series coordinators, 330-672-2312