The annual Highway 54 Career Fair, co-sponsored by Newman University and Friends University, took place on Thursday, April 6 in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center at Newman University.
Approximately 150 Newman and Friends students registered for the event and 65 businesses signed up for a booth. Director of Career Services & Cooperative Education Melody Head said they saw a great turnout. "It’s wonderful," she said. "There are some great business opportunities here and the energy of the students is really good."
Leopold Lamah is an Information Technology and Management Information Systems double major who will graduate in May 2017. Lamah said he was at the fair looking to make some connections that will help land him a job. "I’m making a lot of connections right now," he said. "I have met a lot of great people. Hopefully one of the people I've talked to will contact me soon."
Lamah brought plenty of resumes with him and dressed the part of "interviewee" to ensure a good first impression. He said he had a good feeling about a couple of the visits that took place with companies during the event.
"My dream is to have an IT job, and to be allowed to do what I love to do," said Lamah.
Nursing major Laura Petersburg is in her third semester of the nursing program. Petersburg said she really enjoyed the personal one-on-one time that career fairs offer. "I like that you have a million different options," she said, "and you see things that you would never have seen just browsing online and looking for someplace to apply."
Petersburg attended the career fair looking for options because she will be looking for a job and then pursuing graduate school. She said she was especially impressed by one booth in particular that gave some sound advice.
"I talked to them about different ways to prepare for NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination)," said Petersburg. She said they also talked about how to get involved and orientated into the field of nursing.
Career Fairs are a wonderful opportunity for the student, but the employers felt just as strongly about the experience. Nick Jones with the Kansas Air National Guard said, "This day is important to students because they get the opportunity to come out and showcase their skills and educate us on the degrees they’ve been studying and how they look to make an impact on their local community."
But Jones said it was just as great for them when it comes to spreading the word about what they do. "It also gives us an opportunity to share with them what we do," he said, "and how we can partner together to ensure they have a productive and successful future, and how we can impact our community together."
Chief Human Resources Officer at Meritrust Credit Union Vicki Plank, said, "It’s important for them (students) to be exposed to the employers throughout the community, to be able to talk to people and hear a little bit about the employers’ story and the culture of the company."
Plank added that finding a good fit in regard to personality is just as important as having the right skill set for a career. "We think culture fit is just as important as skill and knowledge. It’s one of the biggest things we look for when we are talking to applicants."
To encourage interaction during the fair, students were given the challenge of talking with at least five companies, and by doing so, they would be entered for a chance to win a FitBit. The lucky winner was Newman freshman Tiffany Lapore.
Lapore said her main goal as a freshman going to the career fair "was to look at the options that I can obtain from the university. I am currently looking for a part-time job, but it's not really actively searching. I did have a couple of companies that I was interested in that I could work in the summer or even now as a part-time worker."
Even though she isn't graduating in the near future, Lapore said she realizes how much effort Newman puts forth in connecting students with companies.
"I learned that Newman does an amazing job of bringing companies to the university and connecting students with the area that they are interested in. I also learned about different options that I could obtain once I get my degree."
Overall, Head was very appreciative to the students for bringing their energy and attention to the event. She said the event was a big success and wanted to especially "thank all the students for coming."
Next year's Highway 54 Career Fair will take place on April 5, 2018, and will be hosted at Friends University.