In the Robert. J. Higgins Welcome Center, a string of the University of Rhode Island's students wraps around the lobby--students dressed in their finest professional attire, smiling and mingling as they check into the night's event. As a part of URI's professional development week, approximately one hundred and fifty students gathered on a fine winter Wednesday for Network and Dine: The Etiquette Dinner,
a three-hour dining event in which students were encouraged to "dress for success." They were also encouraged to bring resumes along as they met with potential employers--including Perspectives, which sponsored the event.
PRACTICE WITH PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WEEK
All week, URI's Center for Career and Experiential Education hosted a number of events for Professional Development Week 2020, where the college assembles the resources and tools for students to supplement their learning with the soft skills necessary for success in the workforce. The Center's many officials -- Assistant Director Holly Hernandez, Career Education Specialists Ashely Foley and Caitlin Broccoli, Event Coordinator Kell Harris, and Kristin Fratoni of the College of Health Sciences -- all worked together with Perspectives professionals, other employers, and students to ensure a wide array of programming for the event.
From three days of walk-in resume workshops to events centered on finding internships, preparing for graduate school, and balancing one's professional and private life, as well as a career fair to end the week with, it's a ripe opportunity for students to begin visualizing just where the future will lead them after obtaining their bachelor's degree. After coordinating with Perspectives for the Etiquette Dinner and other events, such as the Protected Class Panel, the relationship between URI and Perspectives has only deepened -- and on the night of the networking event, the hum and bustle of the scene made it the place to be for dozens of budding professionals.
"It's the perfect opportunity for students to practice and refine their professional speaking skills," said Perspectives' Director of Recruitment Nancy Lewis-Oliver during the "mocktail hour." "We're seeing students of all years here: sophomores and juniors as well as seniors. It's a great turnout!"
Perspectives, an agency that always looks to help young professionals find their passion and the opportunities that passion can open for them, was proud to sponsor this mid-week dining event and happy to meet with students of all fields of study. Attending the event were a variety of professionals from the agency, including Chief Executive Officer Judy Niedbala, Chief Operating Officer Kim Einloth, Senior Director Christine Hathaway, Director of 24 Hour Services Colleen Wise, Program Manager Karen Rogers, and many others, who were happy to meet and network with the next generation of URI alumni.
STUDENTS AT THE SCENE
Two Health Studies majors, juniors Keia and Kara, were encouraged to attend by their professors and arrived to the mocktail hour with bright smiles, ready to learn all they could about professional etiquette in dining settings. With the various quizzes and games on topics such as appropriate interview attire and proper ways to approach food at dinner events, as well as professionals to meet from agencies like Perspectives and Amica, they were excited to speak with new people and learn more about their post-gradation options.
"Everyone should get involved in something like this," said Keia. "To have a free event available to teach us these skills is incredibly helpful."
Kara agreed, noting that "URI as a school has so many opportunities to get involved and get a solid college experience. Events like this are just a part of that."
Beyond those looking to learn more about Rhode Island work opportunities, students also come looking to prepare for graduate school interviews. Health Studies majors Jimmy and Melissa, for instance, already have a start on their professional experience with Lifespan and Waterfire Art Center -- but their sights are set on furthering their education to reach their dream careers. Jimmy is looking to enter a physician's assistant program so that he can continue to develop his career with Lifespan as a researcher, and Melissa aims to continue working for a non-profit or work in academic advising. Both heard about the etiquette dinner on the recommendation of their professor and came looking to sharpen their speaking, networking, and dining etiquette during the event.
"Something like this should be mandatory," Jimmy insisted. "Getting a degree isn't all you need to succeed in the workforce, especially if you don't have the soft skills necessary to be professional and make a good impression."
After the mocktail hour, students filtered into the dining area for dinner and a humorous, lighthearted presentation on etiquette tips, where Judy opened with an address encouraging students to join Perspectives' internship program. From this semester to September, fifty interns will already be joining Perspectives to gain paid experience in a number of fields. As Judy said in her address, "Perspectives believes in investing in Rhode Island's future -- and that starts with supporting students in finding the work and experience they love, career paths they can follow, and tips to succeed." It was a wonderful night with URI, and we're wishing students the best as they continue their studies and pursue their post-graduation dreams!