UConn students – as well as students and recent grads from Greater Hartford – will have a chance to connect with prospective employers in January as a unique and dynamic career fair returns in person to UConn Hartford.
Typically, college career fairs are limited to students from the particular institution hosting the event. But given UConn Hartford’s mission to engage with the community and promote Connecticut’s capital city, the UConn Hartford Career Fair – which will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 11 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. – has a more expansive vision.
“Our values here on the Hartford campus are very much centered on community engagement; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and finding ways to be advocates for Greater Hartford,” says Wiley Dawson, Assistant Director of the Center for Career Development at UConn Hartford.
“Having an event like this allows the Center for Career Development not only to serve our students, but to further our mission of being a driver of economic mobility for our state,” he says.
UConn Hartford has one of the most diverse student bodies of any institution of higher education in Connecticut, with students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds making up 54% of the population, and first-generation students making up 49%. The career fair offers a crucial opportunity for these students to make connections with employers and make preparations for entering professional life, Dawson says.
“If they’ve never done something like this before, the hardest thing is to persuade them that, you absolutely are invited, and this will be a good experience for you,” he says. “Once they see what it’s like, they become really enthusiastic.”
UConn Hartford opened its downtown campus in 2017, and the first career fair was held in January 2019, something of an atypical time for this kind of event. But holding it during the winter break is a boon for December graduates, and an example of the flexibility necessary for a campus where many students work part-time or full-time jobs on top of their course load.
The first fair drew 21 employers and hundreds of students, says Evan McMunn, Publicity and Marketing Administrator for the UConn Center for Career Development. The response was so positive that the next year’s fair saw more employers and students, building momentum that came to a halt barely two months later, when the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted life across the globe.
Virtual events have filled the gap since then, but McMunn says that for an event like a career fair, the in-person experience offers the chance for serendipitous encounters and unexpected discoveries that aren’t possible with online replacements.
“A virtual fair has to be regimented, with specific timeslots for specific employers,” he says. “When you’re in-person, you can talk to an employer you may not have even thought about before, you can spend more time looking around and meeting people. Our post-fair feedback data has shown us that both students and employers prefer the in-person version.”
The fair isn’t just for the benefit of students, McMunn and Dawson note. It offers employers an opportunity to meet with prospective workers from a competitive and successful academic environment: according to survey data by the Center for Career Development, 91% of 2021 UConn Hartford graduates had positive outcomes six months after graduation, defined as either working full-time or pursuing continuing education.
Indeed, while 21 employers were at the first career fair in 2019, McMunn says 44 have registered for the 2023 event.
“Employers are looking to build diverse workforces, and when you come to our beautiful campus in the center of downtown Hartford, you will see how diverse and talented our students are,” Dawson says.
The UConn Hartford Career Fair will be held Wednesday, Jan. 11, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with a snow date of Friday, Jan. 13. For more information, visit the UConn Center for Career Development website.