Career Center program planning with faculty and staffCollat instructor Nathan Oliver (center) planning fall programming with Career Center team. Photo taken pre mask mandate requirement.Each semester, Collat students take advantage of a myriad of career programming designed by the Collat Career Center to help them land jobs once they graduate, including career fairs, career coaching and visits from employers.

To stay ahead, Collat Career Center director Rita Stewart-Hampton and her team plan months in advance, strategizing unique ways to engage students. This year, in anticipation of the fall semester, Hampton and her team reached out to Collat key stakeholders, bringing into the fold different perspectives about student engagement and career readiness.

“We asked for input on career prep events, our Instagram account, career fairs, the virtual career office shell in Canvas, Handshake, and the overall career office,” says Hampton. “We did not want to plan career events for the fall without input from others.”

Since early May, Hampton, along with Assistant Director of Employer Engagement Andreia Stechmann and Assistant Director of Student Engagement Hannah Thompson, invited faculty and the advising, communications, development, instructional design and recruiting departments to offer their guidance and input on current and future programming.

“We wanted everyone to feel like they had buy-in on our programming and what we offer to students,” says Hampton. “We all work closely with students, so we wanted to ensure that what we offer makes sense for our students and stakeholders.”

After meeting with stakeholders, Hampton and her team revised their in-person programming to a flexible model that allowed for virtual events. Now, as COVID-19 resurges across the nation, that decision has proven invaluable.

Before the fall semester, the Collat Career Center team also attended professional development conferences to sharpen their programming, offer their own career readiness advice and learn what other colleges are providing for their students.

In July, the team attended the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Coaching Certification Program conference, which trains members within career services on the necessary tools to acquire the Board Certified Coach (BCC) credential.

At the culmination of the month, the team presented career readiness advice to more than 40 fellow educators at the Alabama Association of Employers and Colleges (AACE) virtual conference and to more than 75 high school business teachers at the Alabama Association for Career and Technical Education (ALACTE).

The team presented the Collat Virtual Escape Room. The escape room, created by Stechmann in 2020, teaches students the necessary steps to prepare for the Collat Career Fair by advancing through virtual rooms hosted on Google Forms.

“Our presentation centered around preparing Gen Z students for career readiness through online gamification and its effectiveness,” says Hampton. “We were able to interact with the business educators in hopes they will visit our campus and bring their students.”

During the AACE conference, Stechmann was named the Outstanding New Professional of the Year for her contribution to the career services industry – including the creation of the virtual escape room.

Attending the conferences, Hampton notes, solidified their programming and provided them more opportunities to grow their knowledge of the field.

Overall, through connecting with peers, students and key Collat stakeholders, the Career Center team created a solid plan for career programming this fall based on collective guidance and perspective.

“We wanted a holistic approach to this semester’s programming incorporating the voices of our staff, students and faculty, and I think we achieved that,” says Hampton.

To learn more about the UAB Collat Career Center, please contact Rita Stewart-Hampton at stewhamp@uab.edu.