The mission of Student Center and Activities (SCA) is to create experiences and spaces that encourage students to discover their interests and find a sense of belonging. One of the key ways that this happens is through involvement in a student organization and SMU has over 200 student organizations to choose from on campus.
Traditionally, the SCA team has hosted a large event called “A Night at the Club” to facilitate this involvement. Over 100 student organizations would set up informational tables in the Indoor Performance Center, and over 1,000 new Mustangs attended, stopping by the tables of the organizations they wanted to learn more about. Given the large crowd in an indoor space, it was necessary to provide a virtual alternative for students to learn about involvement opportunities.
That virtual alternative was Club Crawl, which was developed as ten stand-along virtual involvement fairs, each about 30-45 minutes long. Taking place from 5-6pm over two weeks, each session was specific to a certain category of student organizations, like fraternities and sororities, community service, academic interest, or multicultural organizations, just to name just a few examples! A total of 87 student organizations were represented at Club Crawl.
In each session, about fifteen or so student organization representatives gave brief introductions of their organization, including information about how to join, the benefits of membership, and typical activities of the club. After the introductions, student attendees asked questions via the Zoom webinar Q&A feature, including questions like, “how do I join? Can remote-only students participate? And, how will your club offer activities and opportunities that are COVID-safe?”
Club Crawl provided an opportunity for students to interact in real-time – an aspect that was important to students surveyed about possible A Night at the Club replacement strategies. Students value the opportunity to converse with each other, even when that conversation cannot take place in person. Over 650 students attended one or more Club Crawl sessions; the highest-attended sessions included those for Greek life and service and philanthropy.
“Handshake Virtual Fair Launch Kit Now Live!” was an email all Hegi Family Career Development Center staff members were ready to receive in late-summer 2020. Like most universities, SMU decided to transition their in-person career fair to a virtual space in light of the COVID season. The current career-services platform, Handshake was determined to serve their client campuses with a new virtual career fair feature for the fall recruiting season. The Handshake team quickly grew their mission of democratizing opportunity to presenting the “next generation virtual career fair” to client campuses, and their goal was to deliver a personal and efficient experience for students and employers. The new virtual fair option offered intimate 30-minute group settings and 10-minute 1:1 facetime with recruiters in addition to several videos, articles, and blogs for students and employers in preparation for the event.
As the SMU Hegi All Majors Virtual Career Fair kicked off on September 15, the Hegi team was excited to host 44 employer participants featuring a total of 140 recruiters. A Handshake representative was available to assist employers with technical issues, and Hegi staff members were available to assist students with any questions or concerns via hourly group sessions during the fair. In total, there were 88 group sessions with 730 total student attendance for group sessions, and there were 409 student participants for the 1:1 sessions. The virtual fair was in session for four hours from 3-7pm, and the Hegi team was happy to see a successful student and employer turnout for their inaugural virtual career fair.
After the virtual Career Fair, students and employers were given an opportunity to provide feedback, and the voices were positive and appreciative. One student commented that “It was tough for a career fair to be online, but I feel like the career fair accommodated well and made is as easy as possible for employers and students to connect.” Another student commented, “I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and look forward to meeting more employers and SMU alumnus.” Employers offered complimentary remarks about the level of student participation, and one employer commented that they were “impressed by the professionalism and preparation from the students.”
Despite the challenges during the COVID season, the Hegi team was committed to delivering meaningful services and resources to help our students and employers navigate the virtual chapter together. The Hegi Family Career Development Center team is looking forward to hosting their next virtual fair for spring 2021 on February 9, 2021!
For more information about the Hegi Family Career Development Center, please visit www.smu.edu/career.