RELATED STORY: Mhairi Baird, a communication major, recaps her experience at Brodeur Partners and showcases the value of connecting current students with the vast alumni network.
Christine LeCompte ’86 met her husband in Stoke residence hall. Their first date was in Stillings dining hall. Now a seasoned executive vice president at Brodeur Partners, a global public relations firm, LeCompte remembers the first speech she ever gave, on foot reflexology. She delivered it in a persuasion course in the Department of Communication.
The UNH connections are many at Brodeur Partners, leading right up to its CEO, Andrea Coville, a 1982 alumna who serves on the development board for the College of Liberal Arts. That’s why it seemed a perfect idea to connect UNH students with Brodeur’s Boston office for a day of career exploration.
Raul Bernal, director of COLA’s office of Career and Professional Success, helped organize the program. Bernal accompanied Heidi Bostic, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and thirteen students – a combination of communication and journalism majors – for a day of activities led by LeCompte and alumni Alison Leahy ’88 and Jeff Aubin ’92. The program included a company overview, “speed dating” through departments, a role-playing exercise in client relations and a Q&A with entry-level employees.
“This is my first ‘work shopping’ experience,” Rachel Goodreau said on the chartered bus to Boston. A senior journalism major, she was interested in the event for the networking practice and professional development. “I’m excited but nervous. I’m trying not to think about it too much,” she said.
Norah Silverstone, a communication major and daughter of two UNH alumni, is interested in pursuing a career in PR communications. After she signed up for the trip, she was bold enough to email the company directly, introducing herself and inquiring about internships.
All of the students were in top form during the day, proactive in sharing ideas and asking questions. Aubin said he was pleasantly surprised that no cell phones were in sight. “They were prepped on that,” said Bernal, adding, “shaking hands properly, making eye contact and dressing professionally were all things we discussed.”
Visits to employers like this one are exactly the kind of hands-on experiences that liberal arts students need to connect their education with readiness for what comes after graduation, says Bostic.
“Our liberal arts students learned so much during their day-long visit and had the opportunity to make presentations to a variety of employees at Brodeur,” Bostic says. “They gained useful feedback about their ideas. Students were able to explore the world of Brodeur and to see their work at UNH in a new light: from the perspective of what will be their next step after they earn their liberal arts degree. And the wonderful folks at Brodeur — many of them proud UNH Liberal Arts alumni — were so incredibly generous with their time and talents.”
Phommachak “Joey” Singhavong, a junior communication major, agrees. The experience helped him in his career planning process, he says, especially the role-playing segment in which students were asked to develop and pitch strategies to a new client.
“The experience of being in a simulated work project allowed me to see and think about what it takes to perform in a company like Brodeur,” said Singhavong. “I also was able to get a glimpse of how real professionals think and problem solve.” He now feels more confident about his future options, he says.
Bernal is hopeful that the College will be able to coordinate more trips such as this one, building on lessons learned from the event.
“This is a pilot to see what kind of programs are most valuable for students,” says Bernal. “Our goal is to roll this model out to other industries, creating opportunities for students to connect the dots between their academic experience and the range of career pathways available to them. Our hope is to have a COLA day in Boston with a couple of different tracks for students to choose from.”
With thousands of students in the College of Liberal Arts, the challenge will be finding a way to scale the program to serve the most students while still being an effective way to explore careers. In developing the model, Bernal is hoping to draw on the talents of a successful alumni network tens of thousands strong.