From a Distance: Bringing Career Services to the Disconnected Student
EACE contribution by Susan E. Chappell, M.Ed., Employer Engagement Coordinator at Penn State University
In the fall of 2014, I piloted a new Career Development and Professional Networking course (CN ED 280) for the five eastern region campuses within Penn State’s Commonwealth system as a part of completing my master’s. This initiative was inspired by the realization that at many of Penn State’s commuter campuses, students who were working full or part-time jobs while going to school often missed out on key career development and networking events. So in an effort to reach these “disconnected” students, the class was launched. It was delivered in an online environment to better accommodate the schedules of these busy and often non-traditional students. Resume building and interview strategies were presented in early, asynchronous lessons, all leading to the students’ capstone experience: practicing their newly developed career skills with industry experts within their major in a synchronous, online environment.
Gaining the buy-in from alumni and corporate partners to participate from a distance was the
first step in providing this cohort with the same mentoring found within face-to-face mock interviews and resume review sessions. Turning to those employers with whom Penn State already had a strong relationship was important in launching this pilot. Would they be available to Skype with students over the course of several weeks? Would they be able to set aside a couple of hours to take on the role of career mentors for these students…and from a distance? Oh, and would they like to video tape a guest lecture? Several said yes and together we set off to see if we could leverage a different kind of course platform to introduce our students to the art of professional networking.
For the most part, we were successful. Student feedback was very positive and word of mouth started to spread about the course to other students. Employer feedback was also positive but with a few more lessons learned. Overwhelmingly, they found it was a time effective way to mentor students and fine-tune their professional development skills. On the flip side, meshing schedules and time zones from a distance was a bit more challenging. In the end, the course provided our students with a valuable and relevant lesson in networking through professional online avenues and our industry partners, the opportunity to network with students from the comfort of their offices.
Susan Chappell (’84, B.S. Economics, Penn State SMEAL, ’13, Distance Education Graduate Certificate, Penn State, and ’14, M. Ed., Penn State) is the Eastern Region Employer Engagement Coordinator for Penn State University’s Career Services Team. During her seven and a half years at Penn State, she has also worked with the Division of Undergraduate Studies at Penn State Lehigh Valley as the Alumni and Corporate Liaison and with the Department of Continuing Education where she developed and coordinated outreach programming including the Penn State Center @ Overlook Park project focused on bridging the digital divide.
Chappell’s background also includes seven years in banking management in the Maryland/DC area, eighteen years as a volunteer in the Emergency Medical Services and almost twenty years of project management, grant writing, and non-profit experience. She currently sits on the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Employers (PennACE), Employer Relations Committee, the Penn State University Career Services Advisory Board at University Park, and the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers (EACE), Professional Exchange Committee.