Biggest hiring event of year attracts 633 students

Students lined up to talk to employers Wednesday afternoon at "Meet the Agencies" in the Colangelo College of Business Building courtyard.

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Just about every day on the Grand Canyon University campus, there are more opportunities for students to meet potential employers – and, just as important, for employers to meet the students they very much want to hire.

They connect on Mondays through Thursdays at Companies on Campus at the Student Union, where representatives from companies across the Valley, usually three at a time, meet with students.

The event drew 633 students from the Colangelo College of Business, the College of Fine Arts and Production and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

They connect at regular job fairs and networking events set up by the respective colleges. GCU is projected to welcome more than 850 companies onto campus during the 2019-20 academic year, up from 725 in 2018-19.

They connect through the Career Connections website.

And they connected in a big way Wednesday afternoon in the comfortable courtyard of the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB) Building for the Meet the Agencies event – 57 companies, 633 students and who knows how many future internships and full-time jobs obtained.

It was by far the largest hiring event of the year and yet still felt cozy, as if everyone knew everyone.

“Just because we’re bigger doesn’t mean we don’t still have that intimate feeling in job fairs,” said Alexa Wennet, who supervises Employer Outreach for GCU’s Strategic Employer Initiatives and Internships (SEII), which works in tandem with the Academic and Career Excellence (ACE) Centers to prepare students for these opportunities.

Wennet works closely with Bianca Shaw, the Employer Relations supervisor for SEII, to make these events happen, and Shaw could smile at what their work created Wednesday as she caught her breath amid all the hubbub.

“It was just a huge collaboration,” said Shaw, who has 68 events on her calendar for this semester alone. “It was a lot of phone calls and emails to try to get the companies out and students, too – they all came through.

Alexa Wennet and Bianca Shaw regularly organize events like Wednesday's.

“We’re just making sure we’re not redundant with our events and that they’re meaningful to the students and to our employers, that they get what they need.”

There are so many ways those needs are being met.

It starts with ACE, which provides academic resources at centers all over campus. Then SEII creates opportunities to put those skills to work starting in their freshman year, when students are urged to take advantage of training that includes building a resume, dressing properly for a job interview and understanding what that interview might be like.

But it goes even further than that. Students sign up for the Career Connections database, which can be accessed by employers. For example, they easily can get a list of all the marketing students looking for an internship or full-time position.

Marketing was a big part of Wednesday’s event, and not just for CCOB students. There also were a number of digital design, advertising and graphic arts students from the College of Fine Arts and Production, the Meet the Agencies co-sponsor. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS), which emphasizes professional writing, had students there as well.

Collaboration is key, just as the CCOB namesake, Phoenix business icon Jerry Colangelo, wants it.

“This event is awesome – as Mr. Colangelo would say, ‘Life is relational,’” said Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean. “Between SEII, COFAP and CCOB, the industry relations we have in turn provide opportunities for our students. In some ways these hiring events are turning into an alumni homecoming event with many companies sending former GCU students to hire more GCU students.”

Angel Salazar, President of GCU's chapter of the American Marketing Association, wants to make his club the biggest on campus.

Another big player in the event was GCU’s chapter of the American Marketing Association, which is having its busiest week of the semester. The club meets at 11:15 a.m. every Wednesday, and on this day that meeting included three GCU grads who are former AMA chapter presidents – Josh Bray, Aislynn Brant and Kevin Ertl.

“We try to build a community here at GCU. We try to emphasize being a family,” said the club’s president, Angel Salazar. “I want guest speakers that our students want to model and say, ‘I want to be like her, I want to be like him.’”

Also just this week, the club conducted a tour of the Yelp offices, where executives met with students at each table, and there is a pizza party scheduled for Friday. It’s a reflection of how important marketing is to so many companies, something the club’s advisors, CCOB instructors and marketing veterans Chuck Jarrell and Mindy Weinstein, know all too well.

“We tell students that every company is using marketing in some form,” said Jarrell, adding that marketing is the third-largest expense for most companies, after employees and benefits, and is the only division that’s solely responsible for generating revenue.

The marketing boom is all around us (Can you watch television for 15 minutes without seeing an ad for insurance?), and creating that content requires a variety of people. That’s why digital design majors are part of the feeder system – and why the AMA chapter is partnering with COFAP’s Design United Club.

“When we do projects, we get the marketing people to do the thinking heavy lifting and we have the creative team doing the creative,” said Sheila Schumacher, Director of Digital Design Programs.

It's a good thing there's a lot of space in the CCOB courtyard -- the event was packed.

It’s easy to see all the ways digital design is part of the equation – animation, web design and graphic design – and that’s why COFAP partnered with CCOB on Wednesday’s event. The list of attending employers was created with that in mind.

“With the variety of companies that are here, it covers all aspects and we’ve got students who can fill all their needs,” COFAP Dean Claude Pensis said.

The SEII office also surveys employers to make sure students are filling those needs, and Shaw said the recent feedback has been that “our students are well-prepared and they have their handshakes and their elevator speeches down.”

They got plenty of chances to shake hands and practice their introductions Wednesday. In some cases, the employers greeting them were GCU grads themselves, such as former Havocs Co-President Shelby Langston, now an Associate Loyalty Program Manager for Shamrock Foods.

Many more just like her are ready to march into the workforce, and GCU is eager to help them complete the journey. It all starts with that family atmosphere, a feeling that pervaded the AMA event earlier Wednesday.

“We all had the same comment – we want to help our neighbors, our students,” Salazar said. “We were all trying to help each other and basically say, ‘Hey, you have the opportunity to be happy, smile and get a job.’”

Every day. Just about every single day.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


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