Fleishman Career Center flips the script to highlight multicultural students
The Fleishman Center for Career and Professional development is dedicated to helping all students explore, pursue and achieve career and personal growth. Serving a diverse body of over 18,000 students means that the center’s staff must consider the different perspectives, backgrounds, experiences and goals of each student, including those from underrepresented backgrounds. To intentionally elevate this important aspect of its work, the center hired its first diversity engagement specialist, Tiffany Soto, just over a year ago.
“Highlighting diverse students and making space for them at programs and events related to career growth is really important,” Soto said.
She focuses on programming and partnerships, developing events to meet the needs of particular populations of students. These include discussions on securing jobs for international students, workplace navigation workshops for LGBTQ+ students and What’s Your First Gen Story?, a new event held in collaboration with the BFirst Committee, which focuses on creating a sense of belonging and connection for first-generation students who often face unique barriers.
Soto revived another important University event in February that had been derailed by the pandemic in 2020 — the Multicultural Career Fair Flip — turning the standard career fair on its head. Instead of students approaching various employers with résumés in hand, students from multicultural organizations tabled to represent themselves and their accomplishments, with interested employers coming to them.
“It’s so important to highlight the multicultural organizations and give them a space to tell employers about themselves,” Soto said. “Students are able to highlight their excellent leadership skills and their organizations, which is a large part of career preparation.”
Thirty-one student organizations participated, represented by their executive boards and general body members, and 29 employers attended.
The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), featured a student-designed and -built go-kart at the flipped fair. Senior mechanical engineering major Brianna Thompson is NSBE’s president.
“We’re the minority in our classes,” Thompson said. “NSBE allows us to feel comfortable and have people who we can relate to. We host conferences for Black engineers that are geared toward helping you get jobs or internships.
“This was another opportunity where we can really be highlighted and show what we do,” she said. “A lot of times when we go to the bigger fairs, we don’t feel as heard or as known. A lot of people see Black engineers and think that we’re not able to join in. But I think this gave us the opportunity to really showcase who we are.”
A common theme that motivated many employers and students to attend the flipped fair was the hope of matching the passions of the student organizations with opportunities to make a difference in their professional lives.
For ACHIEVE, an agency that works with developmentally disabled adults in Broome, Tioga and Chenango counties, the Career Fair Flip allowed its staff to see the preparedness of young people who are poised to enter the workforce.
“I think one of the neatest things today is that we’re able to meet the younger folks who want to change the world,” said Melissa Massaro, a recreation therapist at ACHIEVE. “They want to make the world better, and they’re right here operating on campus. By making these connections today, we can help them make the difference in the community they want to see.”
“We’ve been able to network and reach out and talk to groups that we otherwise wouldn’t have known existed,” agreed Erin Shelton, a program manager with ACHIEVE. “We’ve had our eyes opened to what groups in the community we could collaborate with that we weren’t aware of before.”
Darius Rose, director of recruitment at the GO Foundation that works with AmeriCorps to recruit, hire and train recent graduates to be fellows, working as tutors and mentors in schools across America, shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s great to see students who are so engaged with doing work that matters,” Rose said. “Fellows provide high doses of tutoring to students in small groups. There’s a huge emphasis on mentorship, relationship building and really trying to close the gap while preparing the students for the next level.
“Representation is a big thing for us,” he continued. “The majority of the students we serve are Black and Brown. They are in communities that have been traditionally under-resourced and underrepresented. So, in order for us to hold ourselves accountable to that, we need to come to events like this where the schools are really highlighting the diversity that they have on campus.”
Rose forged meaningful connections on campus with diverse groups, which he believes will result in important future additions to the GO Foundation.
The Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program (J.U.M.P) student organization also participated. J.U.M.P. supports youth in secondary educational systems and works to decrease high school dropout rates while increasing enrollment in higher education. The chance for its members to network with employers was valuable.
“We’re a really small organization,” said Nashara Marrow, J.U.M.P’s president. “We’re looking to get our foot out there a little bit.”
Marrow and her board attended the fair in hopes of finding sponsors for their upcoming J.U.M.P weekend, a program where inner city youth are brought to the University for an all-expenses paid weekend, introducing them to higher education, complete with forums and interactive workshops.
“I think our organization is doing hefty work to try and help the at-risk inner-city youth,” Marrow said. “So we’re just looking for any organization that would be able to help us and provide us with resources to help our protégés coming up for J.U.M.P weekend.”
The Thurgood Marshall Pre-Law Society (TMPS) was represented by Eveonni Tordesillas, a senior philosophy, politics and law major on the pre-law track and TMPS’s public relations and treasurer intern. She said she made a fruitful connection with the Legal Aid Society.
“The Legal Aid Society has open legal-specific positions,” Tordesillas explained. “And because so many people in Thurgood Marshall want to go into advocacy, it’s a good resource.”
Ultimately, both students and employers benefited from the switch up of roles at the Career Fair Flip.
“I’m so thankful to all of the organizations and employers that joined and did such a great job,” Soto said. “It was excellent to bring the fair back. If I can provide tools for students to further their careers through information and opportunities and events like this, then I’ll be absolutely thrilled.”