Earlier this month, the first-year Grand Challenges Initiative (GCI) students attended virtual networking events with industry professionals to hear about life beyond college and ask career questions. The professionals who participated were from a variety of fields, including environmental conservation, healthcare, and data analysis. First-year students, student facilitators from the Schmid Student Leadership Council, and the professionals spoke in small groups of 5-6 for an hour over Zoom about everything from recommended classes to questions of work-life balance. 

Schmid Student Leadership Council

Students from the Schmid Student Leadership Council helped facilitate the conversations between professionals and first-year students.

These networking events are a staple of the GCI program. In the classroom, it’s important for students to have the freedom to identify the most innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges. Outside the classroom, these events give students the opportunity to practice skills that will ultimately help them find internships and jobs to build on their classroom experience. In the past, students who have attended networking events have found internships and made critical career connections. Dr. Kelsey Gray, Assistant Director of the GCI program, said, “This is such a great opportunity for students to connect with a STEM professional and explore potential career paths.” 

Jesse Rush

Jesse Rush is one of more than 30 professionals who joined small groups for the GCI’s fall networking event. Rush is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado and talked with our students about the Ph.D. pathway.

Although this year’s event looked different than in the past, students still had the opportunity to practice the same types of skills they would have used at an in-person event. More than 30 professionals volunteered to talk with students. Dr. Gray was impressed by the turnout. “It was fantastic to see our Chapman community rally from all over the country to help our students begin their career exploration.” 

Both first-year and older students had high praise for the event. Ryan King, a first-year data analytics student, said “the GCI Meet-Ups were great. I learned a lot that will be beneficial to me over the next few years. I really appreciate all our guest professionals that took the time to share their knowledge and experiences with us.” Sydni Au Hoy, a junior biological sciences major, reflected that “this GCI networking event provided a truly specialized opportunity for all participants and facilitators to engage in conversation with a professional from their field of choice. The small group environment really prompted each individual to speak up in a range of questions pertaining to the professional’s career experiences, which is often difficult to accomplish in larger group dynamics.” 

Special thank you to alumni and professionals who took the time to meet with our students!