Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Virtual career conference offers new lessons for engaging students, industry


By David Schwartz
Published: July 28th, 2020

A detailed article on Seton Hall’s virtual career conference appears in the July issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here.

This is not your predecessor’s university-industry career conference, but it may be a big part of the future — even after COVID-19 is just a bad memory. On October 16th — during Cyber Security Month — Seton Hall University will be presenting a virtual cyber security conference to help New Jersey university students learn about this growing field, and to also help connect them with potential employers.

“I was talking with colleagues in a bootcamp/certificate program we run for undergraduates in the summer,” recalls Susan A. Scherreik-Hynes, MBA, director of the Stillman School of Business Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Seton Hall. “We discussed the fact that the number of jobs in cyber is growing hugely, but that there are not enough people who are schooled in it to fill them.” Not only is there great demand for graduates, she notes, but the average starting salary is around $92,000. “And we know it will become a bigger issue,” she says.

From a university’s point of view, Scherreik-Hynes continues, “isn’t it fantastic to tell our students about a growing field, and from the point of view of corporations, isn’t it great to get everyone together for the first time to talk about this, and to put them in touch with the universities’ potential new source of employees?”

The October event was not originally planned as a virtual conference, but it became one due to COVID. “We had been planning for several months for it to be held in person,” says Scherreik-Hynes. “But when social distancing was put into effect, we closed our doors and went to an online format. There was no question we’d continue with the conference and hold it online.”

Seton Hall was able to obtain sponsorship from New Jersey’s largest utility, PSEG. “We’re also partnering with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority,” she adds. Attendance will be free, “and you will not have to leave your home or your dorm.”

Despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that it will not be in person, the conference will feature a number of different components that will allow students and corporations to interface. “We plan to run the event from 9:00 a.m. to about 3:00 p.m.,” says Scherreik-Hynes. “We’ll hold six virtual workshops with two tracks, so two each will run simultaneously in the three sessions.”

In each session, one workshop will be “for industry,” the other “for academia.” However, participants will be able to attend one or the other — or both. “It will be very easy to switch in between the two on livestream, and the sessions will also be recorded,” she explains.

The conference organizers will also use an event planning app that enables meet-up rooms for networking. “They will be available for months after the event,” says Scherreik-Hynes. “We want students and corporations to meet each other and to start offering them the ability to stay in touch.”

What’s more, participants will be receiving a listing of all attendees, and people within the conference can contact each other and connect on LinkedIn. Presenters will be able to post their presentations through a virtual format.

“We will have the recorded livestream available for at least six months,” says Scherreik-Hynes. “We will also leave up the community board, so employers and students can continue to connect. Also, we will involve our university career centers, so they, too, can reach out and communicate. We really just need to have channels to put students and companies together to connect with each other. We’re trying to connect the dots to all resources — state government, universities, and companies.”

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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