Students gain insight

03/24/17

Major employers come to campus

Bluffton University’s campus has been booming with professionals and alumni from the surrounding areas this March. Four events in two weeks provided extensive opportunities for Bluffton students to interact and gain practical experience and advice from those already experienced. These events included: the Employer Expo, Institute of Management Accountants Lima chapter meeting, Bluffton Education Organization Alumni Night and Mock Interview Night.

Employer Expo

On March 15, students gained access to the insight of business leaders in the surrounding areas. The expo, sponsored by the Center for Career and Vocation, Bluffton University Business Leaders (BUBL) and the business department, featured employers from Marathon, Cooper Tire, Owens Illinois, Speedway, Auto-Owners Insurance, First Insurance Group and Follow the Eyes. Bluffton has long-standing relationships with these companies through the university’s internship program. The event featured both a panel session and a networking component.

“I think it’s really helpful for students of all ages to be able to come and ask questions they may have,” said Emily Huxman ’17, president of BUBL. “We’re all going through college to get a degree and eventually a job, so it’s really helpful to be able to ask employers how to ace an interview and how to excel in the workforce.”

This was Bluffton’s third Employer Expo. Shari Ayers, director of the Center for Career and Vocation, believes it’s improving each time.

“It is a really dynamic and engaging event,” said Ayers. “The energy in the room, the number of people participating and the excitement of the students who carved out this time just to have this opportunity make it so much better.”

Appiah Adubofour, a 2016 Bluffton alumnus, and participated as a representative from Cooper Tire in Findlay.

“I just love coming back to Bluffton,” said Adubofour. “I feel like it’s good to connect. Knowing the students here gives me more of a chance for conversation and a chance to recruit them to work for Cooper.”

Jason Swartzlander, associate professor of accounting, hopes students gain more than just interview tips.

“It’s a very close up and personal event,” said Swartzlander. “We want the students to recognize that the employers are real people, too. We want the intimidation factor to diminish.”

Topics discussed ranged from how to stand out during an interview to the importance of internships. The event was aimed at business, marketing and accounting majors; however, the event was open to all students.

“I just want to better my future,” said Markus Howell ’19 a marketing major from Wapakoneta, Ohio. “There were three things I really absorbed: have confidence, have an open mind and know what you’re doing.”

IMA Lima Chapter

Bluffton University also served as the host site for the March meeting of the Lima chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants. The IMA industry group represents more than 80,000 accountants across the country.

“Every March, Bluffton hosts the Lima Chapter,” said Swartzlander. “We invite students and members to come and network. It’s very narrowly focused; it’s only accounting majors.”

The three of the speakers were Bluffton alumni.

“It’s good to see alumni come back. It allows students to see those alumni and hear their stories,” said John Burkhart, assistant professor of accounting.

This is the sixth year Lima’s IMA group has held the March meeting on Bluffton’s campus.

Mock Interview Night

Nearly 30 students gathered in The Kiva at Marbeck Center for Mock Interview Night. The area was packed with tables, chairs and employers eager to interact with the students.

“I know when I graduated I never had the chance to practice doing a serious interview,” said Kirsten Egst, director of food service at Cory-Rawson Local Schools. “So, students having this opportunity to get the first few interviews out of their system is definitely helpful.”

A common theme for the night was “confidence.”

“There are some elements that go along with the first time you’re interviewing. There are the first-time jitters and the what-do-I-wears and all the other details we need to think through,” said Britnie Loch, graduate assistant at the Center for Career and Vocation. “I hope this experience allows students to feel like they’ve overcome those and gain confidence in what they’re doing.”

Steve Speicher, regional vice-president of Auto-Owners Insurance and 1996 graduate, stated confidence is a key quality he looks for during an interview.

“We try to ask tough questions to see how they respond under some pressure.”

“They definitely need to have confidence,” said Egst. “They need to know who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what experience they have already and what they need to work on.”

Ayers, director of the Center for Career and Vocation, stresses that providing feedback is the main goal of the event.

“Mock interviews are the very best way to have the opportunity to practice the actual interview experience and get true feedback. When you ask somebody after an interview if you didn’t get a position, ‘Is there anything I could’ve done better?’ those folks are often just not in a position to give you the kind of feedback that can help you the next time.”

Devony Miller ’18, a business administration major from Findlay, Ohio, used the evening as a way to network, as well as practice interviewing skills.

“Some of the people interviewing me today have a lot of connections, and there’s a chance I may want to go into their businesses someday, so this is a great opportunity.”

BEO Alumni Night

The goal of the Bluffton Education Association is to help education majors gain more experience in their field before they enter the workforce. This year, the focus of the group was to invite numerous speakers to their meetings to provide insight and advice to the students.

“Being a senior it’s really beneficial to hear the challenges that first-year teachers have gone through because that’s what I’m going to experience next year,” said Megan Long ’17 a math education major from Marion, Ohio.

Every year, the BEO invites alumni to return to campus and share their experiences in the first few years of teaching. This year, 10 alumni made the return trip. Many gave credit to Bluffton’s professors for preparing them for the real world.

“I found out in teaching that you can’t always be prepared for everything,” said Claire McConnell ’15. McConnell, originally from Spencerville, Ohio, is now an educator at Elida Middle School in Elida, Ohio.

Leslie Thompson ’16 of Wapakoneta, Ohio, now teaches kindergarten at Spencerville Elementary School in Spencerville, Ohio.

“I hope students learn to really dig deep. If teaching is what you want to do, then do it, and just have fun with it.”

Underclassmen also attended the event. This allowed those students to prepare years in advance for what is to come.

“I came because it’s good to hear advice from people who are in the same situation I will be in in just three years,” said Elizabeth Luersman ’19 an art education major from Fort Jennings, Ohio.

Several other events on campus have connected students and alumni throughout the year including several Forums featuring alumni and professional development sessions.

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- Claire Clay, public relations student assistant

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