Welcome to MCEEA’s Faces on Campus campaign!
Over the next year – we will be highlighting the career educators and employers who make up our great organization. Each week we will pay tribute to the individuals who devote their lives to helping students take that key first step into their professional career and the employers who welcome and develop them into the professionals they will become.
We hope you enjoy the insights, stories, and laughs of the people of MCEEA.
This week we explore Albion College – located 30 minutes east of Battle Creek. Albion College (www.Albion.edu) is a private liberal arts college with an annual enrollment of approximately 1500 students.
Our interviewee is Robyn Murphy – Associate Director for the Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management. Robyn began her tenure at Albion five years ago.
Joe Bamberger - Walk me through your career path. What brought you to Albion?
Robyn Murphy - Coming to Albion was my first stint at higher ed, my previous experience was more corporate-focused, taking on the role of recruiter, trainer, interviewing candidates, etc. Given the opportunity to shift gears and go to higher ed and work with students to improve those skills was something exciting for me. It allowed me to shed some light on those unknown factors for students.
JB - Do you have a favorite part of your job?
RM – I enjoy connecting students with Albion alumni and employers. Especially when it results in a win/win scenario like mentorship, an internship, or job offer. It’s so fulfilling for me to see the excitement and joy students get from those moments. I love celebrating their success with them. It's so rewarding for them and it's a lot of fun for me to share that excitement with them.
JB - When you look at the current demographic of students, as you're helping them prepare for their careers, do you think this generation struggles with any aspect?
RM - There's a lot that they just don't know. Being inexperienced and coming into the job search as a young professional. That's why we try to create opportunities for them to get some of that experience in a safe kind of space before they put themselves out there to the world. I think if I had to define a specific skill set that I see more with the current students is just the lack of wanting to pick up the phone and have those phone conversations. That's an area to work and improve upon.
JB - Do you have a favorite event on Albion's campus as it relates to career services and job placements?
RM - Yes, I do. Every fall, we have hosted a career fair bringing in a large number of employers and representatives from service organizations and graduate schools. It's actually one of our largest events on campus. It's always a lot of fun - even though it's really chaotic, and there's a lot of work that goes into it - seeing it all come together the day of the event. Having everybody in the space, mingling, guiding students throughout the process, seeing them light up when they've made that connection with an employer that they were really excited to talk to. All of that is a lot of fun for me to see it through and be a part of it on the day of the event.
JB - Is that Beyond Albion?
RM - Yes.
JM - Do you have that scheduled for 2022 yet, or are you still waiting to see if it's gonna be virtual or in-person? Are you guys ready for next fall?
RM - Yeah, we're still in a little bit of a holding pattern with that. Kind of a wait-and-see to figure out if it's feasible to have everybody back in person or host it virtually. There are pros and cons to both. So we've really got to see which way we want to go.
JB - Let's say from both a pro and con standpoint, my first time attending Beyond Albion, I was in a booth next to Bell's Brewery, which sucked, because who wants to talk to me when Bell's Brewery is right next door. On a positive note, because they had such a long line, I was able to pull kids out of the line to talk to as they were waiting, which you don't get in a virtual standpoint because people have to sign up to go to your booth. You lose something virtually because you can't grab people walking by or attract people by how your booth might look.
RM - And to just have the ability to have that face-to-face interaction is so meaningful.
JB - Do you find any particular major on campus or within Gerstacker is the hardest for you to connect with employers?
RM - I would have to say Gerstacker specifically has had a long history of finance, econ, and accounting students. We have got a pretty deep pool of relationships with organizations and alumni in those areas. I don't want to say it makes it easier, but there are definitely are a lot more connections for students who are following those majors. Because Albion has developed a couple of marketing majors recently, we have some work to do to create those relationships so we can help students to find different connections in those areas.
JB - If I'm an employer that doesn't already have a relationship with Albion, why should I consider Albion students? What's your sales pitch?
RM – The relationship students have with faculty and staff, they are definitely pushed to go above and beyond just the core curriculum. With it being a liberal arts school, they have a really wide base of courses that they're taking, it makes them better critical thinkers, I don't see them shying away from problems. I see our students really being top-notch go-getters. They take initiative, and they're not afraid to speak up, because they've been pushed to do that in classes and really communicate their thoughts and feelings and put those into action. I see them as hitting the ground running in any environment that they're put in.
JB - Let's switch gears. How long have you been involved with MCEEA?
RM - The first event that I went to was a conference in Detroit in June 2017. It was a really interesting event. It was funny, I ran into a woman from GVSU that I graduated from high school with, we had a little bit of a reunion moment. I really loved seeing what other schools were doing. Michigan Tech had this beautiful Year in Review marketing booklet. That was phenomenal. I remember coming back to campus raving about it with my team. From there we created our first annual Gerstacker Report booklet. We thought it was such a great tool to have available for prospective students and parents, and employers. Definitely some great takeaways from that conference.
JB - Beyond that, what keeps you coming back to MCEEA?
RM - Being able to have that collaboration to learn what's working with other institutions. If something's working really well for one group, what's not to say that won't work on our campus as well. I love the sharing of ideas. I think it's so beneficial. Just because we're doing something one way doesn't mean it's the best way. We need to be able to flex and adapt and change. So I really like that collaboration and learning what other schools are doing.
JB - If MCEEA had unlimited time and funding, what are some things you'd like to see added to the programming or resources of the alliance?
RM - I'm not sure how many employers are actively involved. I think that would be beneficial. There are a couple of key players that I know have participated in the conferences. I think expanding that outreach and getting more employers on board to participate and provide input would be really beneficial for schools. Especially in light of COVID, things that are changing, how they are redirecting, having the inside scoop to that strategy would be beneficial.
JB- I am going to circle back a bit. What is your least favorite part about your job?
Rm - This is gonna sound so corny. I love building the relationship with students and employers. The thing that's the hardest is going to graduation and watching those seniors walk across the stage. It's a bittersweet moment because they're supposed to leave. That's the whole point. We get them ready for their careers. But I think because we get to know them and we work with a small group of students, it really does kind of feel like family. And then they leave and we may not hear from them for a while. That's okay, I get it, I don't always stay in touch with folks that I'm not in contact with daily. But I think that's just kind of the hard part. Bittersweet is the best way to sum it up.
JB - Any final thoughts you'd like to impart on the readers?
RM - I think the biggest thing is that resources are out there. Sometimes it's a matter of students being ready and willing to seek those out. But the resources are there and we are happy to help. If you know of anybody that's struggling, make sure that they connect with the right groups, because chances are there's a lot of help that's out there and available for them.
JB - Robyn, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time.
Faces on Campus is a weekly interview series highlighting members of MCEEA conducted by Joe Bamberger of Emerge Consulting. Be sure to follow MCEEA on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MCEEA.org
Connect with Robyn on LinkedIn