Recently, I had an extremely helpful and insightful conversation with the assistant director of a career center at a university in Kentucky. In conducting research of career centers I believed had ample experience with targeted programs for diverse student populations, I decided to reach out to this particular career center to request an opportunity to further discuss this research topic. Sarah (pseudonym) was wonderfully informative, and I would like to thank her, again, for both her time and substantive conversation.
Our discussion unintentionally, but beneficially, focused on the following general questions: What is not enough versus what is too much regarding the implementation of targeted programming? How much does creating trust with student groups affect the success of marketing and programming? What types of programs have been most successful?
Not Enough vs. Too Much:
Sarah has worked, and contributed to, a variety of offices within higher education. Most specifically, she brings a good amount of experience working with the LGBT center on her campus, as both a current professional and previous student. Her previous relationship with this center was beneficial in beginning to create and market professional development programs for underrepresented students. She, too, created relationships with a variety of offices and coordinated events with various organizations, which ultimately led to the career center offering monthly intentional programs and workshops for the LGBT Center, the Women’s Center, Disability Resources, among others.
Sarah’s goals, and her implementation of these goals, was starting to sound familiar as it mimicked my own intentions thus far. However, her next statement gave me cause for pause, and has led me to view my goals and ideas through a more critical lens. Namely, Sarah stated that not long after initiating monthly intentional workshops, students began to inform her that they didn’t want to attend a program specifically addressed to their particular identity, but rather, they wanted to have their concerns more holistically addressed in the general programming.
My initial response was to feel discouraged by this result. However, Sarah mentioned that it wasn’t the actual intentional programming that was the issue, but rather, the frequency of such programming. In other words, finding ways to emphasize diverse issues within the general outreach of the career center is the foundation for inclusive success. Then, offering occasional intentional programming is a way to reinforce this awareness of diversity and the support of inclusivity. In brief, balance is essential.
Sarah mentioned that her involvement in having worked at the LGBT Center as a student and professional, allowed her the advantage of having a relationship with the students, which is a critical component to effective marketing of intentional programming. Of course, it is important not to ‘tokenize’ faculty or staff in order to address various identity groups. However, there is also truth to the fact that people appreciate the support of those that ‘look or identify’ similarly to them. Again, I am reminded of the importance of balance.
I was pleased to hear that she has experienced great success with inviting guest speakers, and offering panel discussions pertaining to identity. However, Sarah elaborated by stating that it was not simply enough to conduct a panel discussion, but she needed to emphasize marketing outreach by major. Many business companies have employee support programs regarding diversity. However, many underrepresented student groups are looking to work in the areas of social work, activism and education, to name a few. Therefore, knowing what majors would be more apt to attend the panels, and reaching out to each department to effectively market the event was most beneficial to its success.
Similarly, panel discussions proved useful for students who engage with Disability Services. More specifically, a program focused on alumni success stories was well received by students. This allows for alums to attend the event, representing a variety of disabilities, whether or not they require accommodations at work. Issues such as when to come out with a disability on a resume or in an interview (especially if one does not need to request any particular accommodation) can be discussed, among other topics.
Indeed, I am reminded that options so often inform creativity, as there are a myriad of ways in which the results of this research could affect positive change, and the ideas for programs could be implemented.
Here’s to the creative process!