Can we get another? (Norwich grad, that is) © Nov. 3, 2006 Norwich University Office of Communications
"Where did you get this guy or gal?" is a familiar refrain heard by Ed Shyloski '66 when he hires Norwich graduates to work in his engineering company, Shaw, Stone & Webster.
You can have an engineering degree and be good technically, but a lot of what we do deals with people, and Norwich prepares you for that.
~ Mike Smith ’88
Shyloski said he believes this reaction comes from the fact that Norwich alumni are better prepared to work in professional settings, because "at Norwich, there is a student-centered approach"in which students interact with professors instead of graduate assistants. Ahead of the rest, Norwich teaches skills that are "immediately deliverable to employers" as opposed to the wide curriculum that many universities teach, Shyloski said.
Mike Smith ’88 of Otter Creek Engineering in southern Vermont values Norwich graduates working in his company because he knows that Norwich" offers really strong technical skills and strong communication skills" in its engineering programs.
"You can have an engineering degree and be good technically, but a lot of what we do deals with people, and Norwich prepares you for that," Smith said.
Shyloski and Smith, along with thirty-five other representatives from engineering companies, spent Nov. 1, 2006 in Plumley Armory networking with potential employees at the school’s largest career fair to date.
Civil engineering major Ben Kleskovic '07 worked for Shyloski as an intern last summer. Kleskovic said the experience paid off even before the Wednesday career fair.
"Ed sent me an email asking me if I wanted a job" before the career fair, Kleskovic said.
And Shyloski is not the only one keeping track of potential employees. Lisa King of CLD Consulting Engineers in Manchester, N.H., said she "…keeps track of students from their freshman to their senior year and most of our entry level employees come out of our intern program." The fair is an opportunity for seniors such as Kleskovic to check in with companies they have made contacts with—either through an internship, or by talking with them at the fair each year—and potentially walk away with job prospects.
Although helpful to seniors, the career fair was also an opportunity for students looking for internships. Desislava Slavova '09 came to the fair in search of a summer internship to gain "experience in the field so I can understand what the job is really about." Slavova said she feels that a part of the Norwich education that puts her above others is the fact that "we use Auto CAD the first year, and that is the first question that companies ask." Slavova said she is confident that she will find an internship, and possibly a job, through the fair.
Norwich University's Director of Career Development, Kathryn Provost, was responsible for planning the annual event. Provost said many of the companies present at this year's fair were located by professors who are in contact with former students working for those companies. As such, she said, the fair's continued success can be attributed to "the involvement of five groups of people – the faculty, Career Development staff, alumni, students, and the employers."
Not only does the fair introduce potential employers to the Norwich education, it also serves to open students' eyes, Provost said. "A student may have heard of a hundred big companies, but they don't know of the other, smaller, 300 that exist, too."
Kate McLean ’08, an electrical engineering major, values the fair because it gives her " a taste of what New England has to offer for engineering jobs."
And that is because Vermont firms were not the only companies represented at the fair. Along with businesses native to the Green Mountain State, companies from greater New England and the rest of the country were on hand to scope out future employees. This broad group, Provost said, provides the opportunity for students to stay in Vermont, but "if they want to go elsewhere, that opportunity is there too, because we have nationwide representation."
Part of that nationwide representation hails from Puget Sound, Wash., thanks to Heather Bisson, Class of ’99. An employee of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bisson said she was inspired about the fair after reading a notice about it in The Record, the University’s quarterly alumni magazine.
"I thought it was a great opportunity to recruit at my Alma Mater and to expose students to employment opportunities on the West Coast," she said. Additionally, Bisson said she felt that the "leadership and management experience that [she] got in college" helped her land the position in Puget Sound and that the shipyard would benefit from hiring more Norwich graduates.
Citing statistics that show career fairs as being unsuccessful in a student’s search for employment, Provost believes that it is not about walking out with a job; instead, she said, it’s "advertising—companies advertising and students advertising as well." Provost said she hopes students will see that "this school in the middle of nowhere attracted these big companies" because of Norwich’s excellent reputation in the engineering field. Moreover, Provost said she believes maintaining that reputation is easy when companies call and say: "We hired a Norwich graduate and are impressed with their work. How do we get another?" The answer to that question, she said, is for companies to continue networking with Norwich students at these career fairs. And if the turnout at the November fair is any indication of what is to come, both students and companies are eager to attend.