Exploring Majors: A College-Wide Event
By Carly Dennis
Raymond Walters College (RWC) is a small, suburban, two-year, open admission, regional division of the University of Cincinnati. The traditional-aged student population has grown significantly due to unique program offerings, convenient locations, and lower tuition costs. Correspondingly, this increase has brought a larger population of students unsure of their future career paths or even a college major.
Due to this changing student population, a retention strategy from career professionals needed to focus on students’ ability to identify a career path. We responded to this challenge with the RWC Exploring Majors Fair. During this event, students explored majors and discussed career options with faculty members, supporting our goal of encouraging conscientious and intentional career decision making. The key factors of success for this event were a) faculty support and b) student participation. Here are some ideas on how you can implement a similar event.
Collaboration was a necessity to garner faculty support. We accomplished this by forming a planning committee consisting of two student-centered faculty members, two Career Services staff members, and two student leaders. To get faculty buy-in, we approached the Dean of Academic Affairs to champion the event and she provided the initial contact with faculty. We also spread the word about the event through departmental and faculty meetings. We discussed the event in relation to retention, student recruiting, building personal connections, and, yes, job security! Our goal was to secure faculty representation for all 38 academic programs and we accomplished this in a short time. In addition, our alumni relations director recruited 14 alumni participants who were able to offer post-graduation employment insights.
Student participation – it’s the first thing we ponder when considering a new workshop, a new event, and any marketing plan regarding career development topics. It can make or break our credibility and impact confidence in our professional expertise. When participation occurs, we are thrilled and reminded of our own passion for helping students find their passion.
Involving students in the planning committee broadened our marketing efforts and our overall perspective on student needs. They spread the word to their peers in and out of their classes, and even signed up volunteers from an honors organization to staff tables and offer a student viewpoint. Direct marketing efforts included the following:
brightly colored fliers created by our Marketing department (free!)
advertisements in the student newspaper, RWC website, and digital information TVs throughout campus
general and targeted emails to students
preparation workshops on how to navigate the Majors Fair
free popcorn and door prizes
The Big Day
We held the RWC Exploring Majors Fair in a high traffic area to increase casual student participation. As the event began, faculty arrived with fantastic brochures and information packets, as well as candy and neat props that showcased their programs. Students got to play with skeletons and microscopes, see pictures of service learning, and watch videos produced by their peers, all while a photographer captured snapshots of students in action.
The atmosphere was very engaging and the faculty welcoming. As expected, students asked countless questions about courses, career options, related majors/minors, job market outlook, salary potential, skills required for success, and internship opportunities. Undecided students gathered information about potential majors and continuing students thought ahead to future career choices, all while building and maintaining relationships with faculty.
A post-event survey revealed that faculty were greatly satisfied with the logistics and student participation during the event, with the majority expressing it was worthy of their time and that they would attend again. With about 200 registered students, our event drew our career fair crowd numbers, a baseline for which we were hoping. A debrief meeting revealed other possible ideas for future events such as:
inviting local high school students to attend
inviting local employers to discuss job search strategies
inviting University of Cincinnati academic departments to represent majors at the bachelor’s level
increasing advertising through social media outlets, if applicable
Success is also measured by future endeavors. In this case, relationships built through the RWC Exploring Majors Fair extended beyond students and faculty and brought a better partnership between staff and faculty. The Career Services office was able to connect in a very positive way with faculty members and as a result our office has been tapped for future collaborative efforts benefitting the college. It’s a win-win for all.
Helpful Tips for Creating your own Majors Fair
Don’t try to do it on your own. Form a representative committee!
Utilize existing untapped resources and collaborate with colleagues – e.g., contact the Marketing department to help with fliers and door prizes, garner administrative support, and don’t be afraid to approach faculty.
No budget? No problem! Aside from table signs (which can be easily created) we spent roughly $75 for this event.
Carly Dennis is a career counselor at the University of Cincinnati - Raymond Walters College. She has a master’s degree in counselor education from The Ohio State University and has been with UC for over two years. She is MBTI certified and teaches a Career Decision Making Course for students interested in exploring major choices. You can contact her with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.