With graduation rates for African American and Hispanic students at Illinois State exceeding the national average, the Career Center’s Cultural Career Network (CCN) hosts several programs annually to champion career success for all students. 

Student and Alumni Diversity Meet-up

The Student and Alumni Diversity Meet-up is designed to bring diverse alumni from various industries back to campus to share with Redbirds how to effectively transition from college to a career as a diverse professional. Through a panel forum and dining with students, alumni share their experiences candidly. Through the support they received at Illinois State, they were able to become the professionals they are today.

students get inspired by alumni career stories

Redbird alumni inspire current students with their career success testimonials.

In her opening remarks at this spring’s program, Career Center Senior Assistant Director Maureen Roach read a few reflections from one of the student attendees who attended last year’s event.

“Prior to this event, I didn’t know whether I was going to stay in school or just go home,” she read. “I didn’t care about first impressions or professionalism, or have any ambition. But my views changed. I started to think that school is an opportunity. I met people at the event rooting for students to not only graduate, but to think further into their future. They made me feel like I could make it through school and that I am going to graduate. I am happy that I went to the diversity event.  I was able to network with different people who are living witnesses to hard work and dedication.”

Diversity Employer Expo

According to a 2015 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 82 percent of large employers report having a formal diversity program in place. Knowing the challenges students may have when seeking internships and full-time employment, the Career Center hosts the Diversity Employer Expo annually to connect them with employers for networking and career advice.

employer shares hiring information with student

A recruiter talks about her organization’s diversity initiatives at the Diversity Employer Expo.

The Diversity Employer Expo connects students with employers from a variety of industries to learn about their organizations, employment opportunities, and diversity initiatives. Through interactive dinner discussions, students connect with employers. After dinner, students participate in a career expo where they share their experience with employers and discuss employment opportunities.

State Farm Talent Brand Ambassador Andrea Wilson ’02 shared her Redbird pride when returning to campus for the Diversity Employer Expo this spring.

“I love what this event represents and the different perspectives provided by the employers,” she said. “It’s so important that the students get to evaluate the employers too.”

In addition to meeting employers, this year’s event co-sponsor Sigma Lambda Beta invited alumni from their organization to share their real-life experiences about transitioning from college to career. Many shared that utilizing the Career Center’s services was crucial to their career success.

International Student Career Series

While most Redbirds seeking full-time employment or internships research which companies are hiring and if they will be a good fit, the number and types of questions often multiply for those from abroad who are studying in the United States. The International Student Career Series, co-hosted by the Career Center and the Office of International Studies and Programs, specifically seeks to provide Illinois State’s international students with the career support they need to be successful and confident when entering the U.S. job market.

The series covers a variety of topics and focuses them specifically on the needs of international students. These include Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), an international student networking and etiquette lunch, customizing resumes to jobs, career fair prep, interview tips, and Career Center resources.

“In today’s competitive job market, finding a job can be overwhelming for many graduating students. This can be even more difficult for international students who are interested in employment in the United States,” Roach said.

Ruisha Zhang, M.S. ’14, M.B.A.’15, faced some of those challenges from when she was as an international student seeking employment in the U.S.

“International students have extra hoops to jump through when getting hired,” Zhang said. “With English being a second language, I didn’t always feel comfortable.”

Cooper shares about student career success

Career Center Director and Cultural Career Network (CCN) Founder Pamela Cooper thanks employers for their contributions to Redbird career success.

The Cultural Career Network began in 2003 through the efforts of Pamela Cooper, who serves as the director of the Career Center.

“The demands in the workforce are constantly changing requiring greater career readiness and development opportunities for all students, regardless of their major,” she said. “Our CCN programs are not just diversity events. They are events to further support diversity, but ultimately, serve to promote student career success.”

The Career Center’s Cultural Career Network supports and encourages students of diverse backgrounds through a variety of events designed to connect them with employers, and to provide resources to help them achieve career success. The program exemplifies Illinois State’s commitment to all students and raises the bar for excellence in the classroom and in their careers.