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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2023 Creating Pathways to Excellence

Popular Engagement Event Offers Students Face Time With Faculty

By Sue McMurray

A centralized meeting space, catered refreshments, and open conversation are key elements of success for the faculty engagement panel and networking event.
Photo by WSU Photo Services

Imagine being a nervous first-year student, unsure about your college plans, not knowing what to expect from your professors, and perhaps feeling intimidated about networking. It’s a common scenario for lots of university students, but no longer an issue for Carson Cougs.

With some financial support from Don Lionetti (’87 Mktg.), Michelle Chapman was able to create a faculty engagement panel and networking event to help students get to know their faculty as well as their peers. As Assistant Director for Student Engagement and Career Development, Chapman oversees the college’s Career Amplifier program, which helps students develop professional skills through engaging, hands-on experiences. Business students may attend the faculty engagement event to complete one of Amplifier’s professional development opportunities.

The event has proved to be one of Amplifier’s most popular; more than 200 students attend each semester. But they don’t just do it for credit.

“It gave me a chance to practice talking to new people with little risk because we were all there for the same thing,” Katie Carstens says. “I was hoping to get more comfortable talking to people I don’t know. I put myself out there, introducing myself to more people than I thought I would.”

“I wanted to learn about what it took to reach the level of excellence faculty hold now,” Rymar Hernandez says. “By asking one-on-one questions, I gained very insightful details into how to take advantage of the opportunities handed to you.”

“I was hoping to hear about opportunities connected to accounting,” Colin Olmstead says. “That worked out well for me because I learned more about VITA and decided it was something I wanted to do.” VITA is the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and a registered student organization at many colleges that offers free tax assistance to low-income taxpayers.

Kevin Chase, assistant professor of marketing, networks with business student Janelle Chavira during the event.
Photo courtesy WSU Photo Services

Raising event quality increases attendance

One of the reasons for the event’s success is the preparation Chapman puts into it. She first tried offering it at the department level in spring 2022 when students returned to campus after the pandemic. Student attendance was very low, and the event didn’t meet any of the goals she had in mind.

She spent over a month revising it, including moving the fall event to a centralized location in the CUB and adding catered refreshments, made possible by Lionetti’s financial contribution. She provided students with networking practice beforehand and gave faculty some talking points. She also built out the agenda.

“At the start of the event, I ask students to introduce themselves to faculty and to each other and talk to as many people as possible for 15 minutes,” Chapman says. “Faculty panelists then talk about their own positive and negative experiences and career paths. They also give robust feedback to students during the Q&A. This personal approach removes students’ fear and uncertainty, and faculty also benefit from the experience.”

Face time with faculty boosts student confidence

“This event was a great opportunity to connect with students in a large, interactive setting and engage in meaningful dialogue about obtaining their career goals,” says Robert Crossler, chair of the Department of Management, Information Systems, and Entrepreneurship. “I felt like I was part of a team helping Carson students prepare for internships and initial career placements.”

“I just enjoy getting face time with students beyond my own classroom,” says Nancy Swanger, founder and director of the Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living. “Networking with students after the formal presentation led to one of them declaring senior living as their choice of major.”

Students who attend the event are affected in different ways, but several report gaining more confidence about their own networking ability, professionalism, and career path.

“Although the classes I’m taking are teaching me a lot, the amount of wisdom I gathered from simply talking to the faculty within my industry was priceless,” Felipe Garcia says. “Being able to walk up to Dr. Robert Crossler, someone so meaningful in a time when I was unsure about what I wanted to do with my degree, truly helped and inspired me.”

For Elyse Baker, the advice and knowledge the professors shared were most impactful. “I felt like I got good advice that provided me a sense of confidence and assurance about where I am in school currently and the direction my future is headed,” she says.

Rewards of supporting student development

Through the faculty engagement event and other activities offered through the Amplifier program, the Carson College is producing business-ready graduates, which perpetuates employers’ confidence that a Carson Coug graduate will be an asset to their companies.

“My wife, Julie, and I are committed to giving back to our great university, and the knowledge that our annual giving is benefiting a great number of students is humbling and gratifying,” says Lionetti, a sales director at Microsoft. “I would like to see more alumni earmark their giving to the Carson Center for Student Success and the Amplifier program. And I’d like to remind people corporate matching programs, if available, can double the impact of a gift.”

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