The Undergrad Leadership Conference was held September 6-8 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel in Schaumburg IL. The conference provided a space for specifically African American, Hispanic, and Native American college students to gain a greater understanding in career development by practicing their interview skills, sharpening elevator pitches, and learn in a workshop setting how to gain internship and career experience. The 21st Century Scholars, a program division of the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, attended the conference, integrating with schools from all over the country as they learned the necessary information in a relaxed, yet professional environment.
“It’s a way to develop the skills students need without a lot of worry,” Rachel Boveja said. “Things like networking 101, how to dress professionally, how to keep in contact with potential employers. It’s great to learn how to do those things in a real-world setting without a lot of pressure and they were incredibly prepared.”
The conference provided a unique mix of informational and recruitment material for the students in attendance. Young students could gain insight into hiring practices, tactics for resume building, and internship advice; while older students could actually have face to face talks with potential recruiters for businesses. Additionally, this conference is in line with the collaboration between the 21st Century Scholars Program and the Career Development Center’s Roadmap to Success 2020–a four year comprehensive plan for students detailing specific milestones to help guide them through college.
But one of the most helpful aspects of the conference was the way it allowed for acceptance. While many of the skills—like networking and elevator pitches—can be taught elsewhere, the conference provided an environment that allowed students from minority communities to ask specific questions in regards to their backgrounds and cultures.
“At the beginning of the conference they were pretty common. ‘what do I wear?’ ‘How do I present myself in a professional manner?’ but as the conference continued they started to get a little more personal,” Boveja said. A lot of them have traditional hairstyles and clothing they wore wondering if it was professional or not. A few of them actually talked to recruiters and were wondering how to follow through. It was incredible to see the learning and the evolution they did while they were there.”