Students Gain Competitive Career Edge at the Diversity Networking Banquet
By Jennifer Spencer
More than 150 students attended a networking event and panel discussion hosted by the Office of Career Services.
Panelists from employers including NBC, Major League Baseball, and The New York Times shared their insight on the world of work at Fordham's Diversity Networking Banquet in March.
More than 150 students and nearly 50 professionals attended the networking event and panel discussion. Steffany Fattor, director of Career Services, said that the number one focus of the event was networking for diverse populations.
"We want to broaden students' perspectives in the world of work," Fattor said. "We want students to understand the reason why many companies have diversity programs is because of the value a different perspective adds in the workplace."
The banquet featured a dinner where students were seated with business people in fields of their career interest. Career Services offered networking workshops the week before the event and were on-hand to give any nervous students a helpful nudge.
"The career services staff didn't hesitate to introduce you to any representative you wanted to meet," said Julia Ledee, FCRH '13. "It's a good opportunity to realize that it's just not that hard to introduce yourself to people."
The diversity expert panel featured seven professionals who shared their expertise and answered student questions.
Kenneth Roldan, CEO of executive search firm Wesley, Brown, and Bartle and author of Minority Rules: Turning Your Ethnicity Into a Competitive Edge, helped assemble the panel of and moderated the discussion.
He said he committed to the event to help expand students' perspectives.
"It is very important to give back to kids, especially kids of color," Roldan said. "The panel members have a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the terrain of corporations and small businesses."
"The goal of the panel was to really widen the aperture to understand what the view is post-graduate. I went to an Ivy League school, and I didn't get any of that," Roldan said.
"The career services staff didn't hesitate to introduce you to any representative you wanted to meet," –Julia Ledee, FCRH '13
Roldan said he wanted students to understand that diversity goes beyond race and gender and that diversity of thought is valued in the business world.
"It's moving away from affirmative action to how one can impart their experiences as a competitive advantage in the business sphere," he said.
Rasheeda Winfield, FCLC '06 and GSAS '08, is currently an associate producer at Dateline NBC.
She said she can identify with students' concerns about finding the right job and encouraged them to keep at it even when the going is tough.
"We have these expectations when we get out of school that we're going to jump right into the perfect job," Winfield said. "It often just doesn't happen that way. You may have to take some jobs at first that aren't exactly what you want, but sometimes it's a means to an end."
Fattor said she was thrilled with the level of thoughtfulness that students displayed in asking questions of the panel.
"The employers were blown away. Some of our panelists graduated from college in the '70s, so race was handled very differently when they were young," she said.
Fattor said many successful networking connections were made at the March event. Panelist Winfield said she was impressed to meet freshmen students at the event who were bold enough to hand her their resume.
"Our students are so proactive about their futures," Winfield said. "They're big dreamers and they want to be able to work in a world that sees past race, that sees past gender, and really sees you for what you can bring to the table."
"When I become a senior manager, that's what I will look for," she said.