July 7, 2022
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Fleishman Center finds success through collaborations

Student program participation up 119% over four years

Emily Ziemba, left, a graduate assistant at the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, works with English major Zaliyah Vernon at the center in February 2022. Emily Ziemba, left, a graduate assistant at the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, works with English major Zaliyah Vernon at the center in February 2022.
Emily Ziemba, left, a graduate assistant at the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, works with English major Zaliyah Vernon at the center in February 2022. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

Manuel Cabrera ’17 was interested in pursuing a career in medicine, but outside of the academic component, he didn’t know where to begin. A first-generation college student from a family of immigrants, he felt completely lost.

“I didn’t really have the guidance and the proper understanding of how to navigate college, let alone professional development,” Cabrera says.

Fast-forward several years. Cabrera is now a second-year medical student at St. George School of Medicine in the Caribbean. He says he wouldn’t have gotten to where he is today without the help of Binghamton University’s Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development and its career exploration course, CDCI 200, with then-Director Kelli K. Smith. Through this course, Cabrera learned not only how to properly format a résumé (tip: adjust your résumé for each position to which you apply), but made connections that helped him get into medical school.

The Fleishman Center helps prepare students for advanced education, careers and “purposeful living” through skills development programs, workshops, credit-bearing internship opportunities, practice interviews, employer visits and much more. Annually, the center offers more than 700 skills development programs and workshops, and hosts nearly 2,500 on-campus interviews.

“It’s a whole lot more than résumé critiques, which is what most people think of when they hear the words career center,” says Denise Lorenzetti ’94, MBA ’97, current director of the Fleishman Center. “Many students come in and they really don’t know what they want to do,” Lorenzetti says. “So we assist them in exploring majors and careers. We help them with every aspect of obtaining a job and internship, from networking to mock interviews.

“And OK, we do résumé critiques, too,” she adds, laughing.

Collaboration as a cornerstone

The Fleishman Center has come a long way since its days in the basement of Glenn G. Bartle Library. (Lorenzetti even admits she didn’t know where it was when she was a Binghamton student.) Thanks to a major gift from Steve Fleishman ’91 and Judith (Judy) Garczynski Fleishman ’90, the former career center became the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development in 2014. With that came a move to the more centrally located University Union, cutting-edge technology and just before that, a new director in Smith.

Smith was drawn to the role because she sensed that the University was making career education a greater priority, as well as for the Binghamton student profile, the caring team and the dedication alumni seemed to have toward supporting students — key in any career center’s success. But there was much work to be done.

“Not only did many students not know about our department, but a staff member noted during our strategic planning in my first couple weeks how we needed to work on reaching out to the rest of campus,” Smith says. “I was already hoping we would expand campus collaboration, since no new positions came with the new space, and we know career centers cannot do this work alone; but the team knew it, too, and was ready for change. In addition to taking more of a data-driven approach to design and storytelling and restructuring processes, we built collaboration into our metrics of success and into staff positions. Everyone had collaboration with departments, student organizations, alumni and employers built into their job descriptions.”

Smith did a listening tour across campus, and even went “undercover” on an admissions tour to better understand perceptions of the Fleishman Center. Conversations with colleagues brought the issue to the forefront: get out of the office more and work with others. By adopting a career-community model and reaching out across campus to faculty, various school career centers, academic advising offices, student organizations and Residential Life, and focusing more on employer and alumni engagement, the center was able to expand its offerings and reach.

“Within weeks of Kelli’s arrival, she had pulled in the directors of all the career centers on campus and quickly implemented that vision of collaboration, which really changed the nature of how we now all work together,” Lorenzetti says.

The work of the entire team and campus paid off. The Fleishman Center went from being a relatively unknown resource to winning international recognition through the National Career Development Association’s Exemplary Career Center Award in just three years, along with the Innovation Award for the Career Champions program at the 2018 Global Career Services Summit held in the United Kingdom. Departmental metrics reflected the change in direction as well; student program participation increased 119% in four years, and the number of requested programs by faculty, departments and student organizations increased 298% in that same period. At the same time, placement rates increased by about 5% each year.

“Considering our staffing only slightly increased, this shift was a huge testament to our Fleishman team’s incredible dedication and student-centered focus, as well as that of our entire campus and alumni,” Smith says.

Keeping the momentum going

Lorenzetti was promoted to director in 2017. Smith is still involved nationally within career services, including recently being elected to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) board, but now serves as assistant vice president for student success with oversight of a few additional departments. Lorenzetti’s goal has been to continue to build upon the momentum Smith and the team had begun.

“She laid the groundwork for setting the career center up for success, and from there I was able to continue the collaboration that Kelli had started,” Lorenzetti says.

Outside of cross-campus collaborations, Lorenzetti and the team have increased connections and programming to connect students with alumni. She says the best way to build a pipeline between college and work life is to create opportunities with Binghamton University graduates.

“Leveraging our alumni to grow our opportunities is so important because at the end of the day, if students are not building good connections, robust connections and networks, it’s difficult for them to find those opportunities,” Lorenzetti says.

Not uncoincidentally, Binghamton this year secured a place on The Princeton Review’s top 20 public schools for career placement list — a first and major accomplishment for the University. “This is especially exciting considering the Fleishman team works hard to ensure our students are successful once they graduate, and we know how much prospective students and families value knowing our campus community prepares students for career success,” Lorenzetti says.

The Fleishman Center is also actively trying to connect with students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds who might not know the importance of visiting the career center or might be intimidated to walk through the doors.

“During COVID we really started reaching out and focusing on our underserved student population,” Lorenzetti says. “And the response that we got back was amazing, as far as students getting engaged that typically wouldn’t get engaged. We found out that some of the students would prefer to meet virtually than come into the office, because they felt it was less threatening.”

Lorenzetti stresses that while the Fleishman Center itself is not threatening, students often feel they need to have their career paths figured out when they walk through the door. What students need to understand, she says, is it’s a first step in a long process and the Fleishman team is ready to assist.

Alexandra Miranda is happy to see how much the Fleishman Center has developed throughout the years, especially surrounding issues of diversity. A junior majoring in sociology, human development and Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies (LACAS), she came to the center seeking services and now works there as a senior peer consultant and student director of diversity initiatives.

“I’m in an opportunity program and I know other students in the program in the beginning were really nervous about Fleishman or had an impression of: ‘Oh, all these people in blazers,’” Miranda says. “Fleishman creates so many programs and workshops directly catered to these specific student populations. It shows how committed they are to helping every single student who needs it and just meeting them where they’re at.”

The job is not over

Going forward, the Fleishman Center hopes to expand its virtual offerings. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the center to get creative and introduce virtual career appointments and job fairs, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It also plans to do a hybrid method of virtual and face-to-face events.

“Typically when we host a New York City employer visit, they provide strict criteria on who can attend, such as a certain GPA level, year and major,” Lorenzetti says. “They have limited space in their conference rooms for approximately 30–40 students. Once we went virtual, space limitations were no longer an issue and we could include all the students who applied for the visit.”

Lorenzetti and Smith both agree that while Fleishman is nationally recognized as one of the best career centers in the country, there is more to be done. For one, they hope to incorporate career education into every student’s curriculum.

“We have this tagline: career everywhere,” Lorenzetti says. “The only way that we’re going to be able somehow. That’s the dream.”

“When you build it into a course, you are not reliant upon students to walk in the door,” Smith says. “Despite the tremendous outreach we’ve done and trying to go to where students are with our career consultant-in-residence model, for example, we still do not reach all students. It may be that students are working a lot or do not have mentors who nudge them to use our services.”

As a start, all students taking the first-year UNIV 101 class gain career education, and the Fleishman Center coordinates both a career exploration and internship course.

“While collaboration was needed for the first part of our vision, integration is what we are working toward next to ensure equal engagement and outcomes for all our students,” Smith says.

Lorenzetti and Smith admit it has been and will continue to be a team effort, and are both proud of the impact the Fleishman team has had on students. For Lorenzetti, the student impact makes coming to work every day a privilege.

“Every day I go home to know that we’ve helped a student or handful of students or somehow have impacted individuals,” Lorenzetti says. “It is the best feeling in the world. It’s really what makes me tick.” to reach 100% of our students is by building career readiness into the curriculum somehow. That’s the dream.”

“When you build it into a course, you are not reliant upon students to walk in the door,” Smith says. “Despite the tremendous outreach we’ve done and trying to go to where students are with our career consultant-in-residence model, for example, we still do not reach all students. It may be that students are working a lot or do not have mentors who nudge them to use our services.”

As a start, all students taking the first-year UNIV 101 class gain career education, and the Fleishman Center coordinates both a career exploration and internship course

“While collaboration was needed for the first part of our vision, integration is what we are working toward next to ensure equal engagement and outcomes for all our students,” Smith says.

Lorenzetti and Smith admit it has been and will continue to be a team effort, and are both proud of the impact the Fleishman team has had on students. For Lorenzetti, the student impact makes coming to work every day a privilege.

“Every day I go home to know that we’ve helped a student or handful of students or somehow have impacted individuals,” Lorenzetti says. “It is the best feeling in the world. It’s really what makes me tick.”

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