IU’s Walter Center for Career Achievement will hold its fifth annual Connect Conference at 9 a.m. Friday, in the Indiana Memorial Union Tree Suites. The conference’s goal is to give students in the College of Arts and Sciences a chance to meet alumni and learn about job opportunities associated with their degree for post-graduation.
Amy Cornell, the center’s senior associate director for strategic alumni engagement, said the conference offers a dozen different panels, each focusing on varying career interests.
“I really want people to be excited about the power of a liberal arts degree,” Cornell said. “I want students to understand that they can do anything they want with that.”
Hillary Nienhouse, the center’s assistant director of employer relations, said the conference features a new pitch competition called the Connect Challenge, which was created with the College of Arts and Sciences in mind.
She said there are three different categories in the competition — creative endeavors, nonprofit and social good, and startups. Students can submit a wide range of ideas from a novel to a new product.
“We wanted to build a competition where a student from any one of our 80 plus majors could apply using their skill set and win,” Nienhouse said.
Students applied earlier in the month and there are about 24 finalists out of more than 30 applicants, including teams, she said.
Students will compete for prize money, which the center hopes they will use to develop their idea, Cornell said.
Cornell said the first place prize is $2,000, and the runner up prize is $500. If a team wins, the members would split the money.
“We hope that they’ll use the money to take a week at a writers’ retreat and write their novel or to develop their product for market,” she said. “But we’re not in a position to follow up. So, you have our blessing, go off. If you wanna come back and tell us about what you did, that’s great.”
Joe Lovejoy, College of Arts and Sciences assistant dean for integrated undergraduate experience and the center’s director, said the conference will also be a chance for students to network with around 30 alumni in a safe environment with Walter Center coaches available to help.
“Any student could grab someone in a Walter Center shirt and say, ‘Hey, I’d really like to meet so-and-so, could you introduce me?’” Lovejoy said. “We will provide that, ease students into the conversations.”
Lovejoy said he encourages all students to attend, no matter their year at IU. It can help clarify their interests, he said.
“There’s no better way to feel really connected to the work that you’re doing here in the classroom than by seeing how that relates to what you want to do next,” he said.