The Center for Career and Professional Development has made drastic changes to shore up its support for the student body amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The center’s main priority is providing students with a seamless transition from in-person to virtual career assistance.
Lori Kennedy, senior director of the Career Center, said the Career Center’s mission is to deliver career education and connections that support student success.
The Career Center’s effort to adapt to the changing conditions caused by the pandemic began in March 2020. Kennedy said during the week of spring break, the center converted all of its services to a virtual format.
“The first thing we did was we huddle together as a team to take a step back and to think comprehensively on how best we can support the student body,” Kennedy said.
The result of this collaborative thinking was a support system called Lehigh Strong. This program is outlined by six pillars: strength, transformation, resilience, organization, networking and guiding.
From this new digital strategy, many innovative online opportunities have become accessible to Lehigh’s student population.
Karen Kuczynski, director of Career Education, said one such program titled, “Industry Insight,” is a series of 30-minute webinars given by the center’s employer partners. The webinars feature talks about the impact of COVID-19 and suggestions and resources for students seeking employment.
Kuczynski said the program took place throughout the summer and is continuing through the academic year.
“Bridges” is another new program offered by the Career Center.
“Bridges will be a new element to Lehigh Connects where students can connect with alumni for projects and other collaborations in regards to a research opportunity for example,” Kuczynski said.
In addition to student services, the Career Center has taken initiative to elevate virtual connections with employer partners.
Cheryl McCue, director of employer engagement, said they have been working with their employer partners since March in an effort to pivot programming to a digital environment.
“We provide (our employer partners) with Zoom links so that the information sessions, coffee chats, those kinds of events that are posted in Handshake continue to happen,” McCue said. “We also investigate platforms that allow students to continue with remote internships and opportunities through micro internships.”
The fall 2020 career fair, a staple event for the Career Center, took place virtually on Sept. 10.
“We were able to facilitate the ability for 96 employer partners to come together with over 760 students and 1,850 opportunities to connect in pre-scheduled 30 minute group sessions,” McCue said.
McCue said this allowed employers to provide information about the industry, their organization, and positions they might have available.
Cayla Brint, ‘23, attended the career fair.
“I like how you had to schedule one-on-one meetings with employers,” Brint said. “It gave you a 100 percent chance to meet with them.”
Lehigh’s safety protocols have limited physical activity in the Career Center’s office.
Kennedy believes the university is working hard to make sure the students and staff are safe. She said despite minimal student traffic in the physical office, the virtual services are busy.
“I say this everyday with the team: we don’t admit good students, we don’t admit great students, we admit exceptional students,” Kennedy said.