On Friday, Nov. 13, The Consortium welcomed more than 350 attendees to its first annual Fall Town Hall & Career Fair. Facilitated by online events platform Hopin, the event provided a welcome opportunity for students and alumni to connect with both new and long-standing Consortium corporate partner companies.
“The event offered a much-needed connection for students, alumni and company representatives,” says Naomi Sanchez, assistant dean for MBA Career Management and Corporate Recruiting at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. “Our students found the conference beneficial in expanding the opportunity to make important connections to professionals and to learn about trends, opportunities and company cultures.”
The idea for the event came out of discussions between The Consortium’s Development Department; the Career Services Committee, chaired by Sanchez; and the Alumni Relations Committee, chaired by Consortium alumna April Taylor. Seeing an opportunity to offer alumni and second-year students in particular another touchpoint with corporate partners during the pandemic, Taylor proposed the idea for a virtual networking event.
“Few alumni attend the Orientation Program & Career Forum (OP), and many who do are representing their companies, so networking or shopping for other roles is a challenge,” Taylor says. “After COVID hit, I suggested we do something to support second-year students — upcoming graduates — who may be shopping for jobs, since so many companies were rescinding offers.”
The Consortium saw an opportunity to satisfy the needs of both groups with an online event. The development of the Town Hall & Career Fair was led by Kimberly Alexander, vice president of development for The Consortium, and Janice Wells-White, vice president for program administration, who was responsible for building out the platform and helping solidify programming.
“Development is always looking for ways to enhance the benefits of partnership, and we wanted to have another touchpoint after the early summer OP,” says Alexander.
Alexander says the goal for the inaugural event was to have at least 12 participating companies and a minimum of 200 students and alumni in attendance. The Consortium far exceeded its goal, with more than 250 students and alumni and just over 20 corporate partners. Participating companies included longtime corporate partners like Amazon, Centene and General Mills and some new: Frog Design Inc., Alvarez & Marsel, Adaptive Biotechnologies and Tyson Foods.
The Town Hall included welcome remarks and highlights from FY20 from Consortium Executive Director & CEO Peter Aranda, followed by Development Department highlights from Alexander. Several panelists then led a mental health discussion titled “How to Stay Balanced in 2020,” where they discussed the effects of the pandemic and racial unrest on employees’ mental health and how to prioritize wellness during these challenging times.
“The pandemic, the social and racial protests, working remotely and economic pressures made it easy to select the topic for the panel discussion,” Alexander says. “Staying balanced and staying mentally healthy are things that all participants could relate to.”
The timeframe for the event was ideal as many students are still trying to secure or are deliberating over offers, and many alumni are also seeking new opportunities.
“Students appreciated the timing of the conference as well as the platform, which offered video presentations and opportunities to talk with people,” Sanchez says. “They found the timing to be perfect in terms of first-year students seeking more knowledge, information and contacts before internship season gets into full swing.”
For alumni, the virtual event provided an easy opportunity to engage with The Consortium and explore new companies and positions. “Our virtual world has given us more opportunity than we’ve previously taken advantage of. Regularly, timely topics and outreach are valuable and could definitely grow alumni engagement through time, talent and treasure,” says Taylor, noting that alumni are Consortium members for life and play a key role in the organization’s progress. “Facilitating opportunities for alumni to engage with each other and learn about the current status of the organization, as well as career opportunities, are all ways to further The Consortium’s mission — directly and indirectly.”
Alexander agrees, pointing to the large alumni turnout as proof of the outsized role they play in advancing the organization’s mission.
“A true community takes care of everyone in it,” she says. “We have an obligation to be a resource to all of our constituents, and alumni are our best ambassadors. Time after time, when I am speaking to new companies, they indicate they learned about The Consortium through an employee who was a fellow. They believe in this community, and we certainly believe in them as well and want to offer opportunities for them to stay connected with us and each other.”
Thrilled with the Town Hall & Career Fair’s turnout, Alexander believes that next year’s event will “be even better.”
Mental Health Resources
Weren’t able to make it to the event? Looking for ways to stay balanced and cope with the stresses of daily — not to mention pandemic — life? Check out the following resources recommended by Consortium corporate partner representatives during the Fall Town Hall & Career Fair:
Mindfulness without the Bells and Beads: Unlocking Exceptional Performance, Leadership, and Well-Being for Working Professionals by Clif Smith
—Recommended by Clif Smith at EY
The National Institute for Mental Health
The Tara Brach podcast
—Recommended by Princess Little at Cigna
Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones) by Nataly Kogan
The Headspace App (for guided meditation and mindfulness)
—Recommended by Amy O’Neill at Liberty Mutual Insurance