Leader Launch prepares students, alumni for careers in the workplace

UPPER BURRELL, Pa. -- A Penn State initiative to provide a professional conference for students seeking jobs and internships is set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. The second Leader Launch conference is designed to enhance their knowledge of transferable skills, networking and professionalism.

The program, “Journey to Success in the West,” is a leadership and career conference for Penn State students from the western campuses. Current students and recent alumni from Penn State New Kensington and the western campuses of Altoona, Beaver, DuBois, Erie, Fayette, Greater Allegheny and Shenango will join business leaders in a professional conference environment to learn the tips and techniques to launching a great career.

Topics include communications, goal setting, job search processes, internships, social media, networking, business ethics, leadership, and presentation skills. The interactive conference features special sessions with Penn State alumni and industry professionals providing insights and advice on preparing for the workplace. A networking reception and professional etiquette dinner are scheduled for Saturday evening.

Former attendees praise previous event
At last year’s inaugural event, the New Kensington campus was represented by 13 students and recent graduates. Kailey Brink, a senior in the administration of justice program, took advantage of the opportunity to connect with employers and improve her professional skills. She earns her bachelor’s degree in December and plans to work at a juvenile drug and alcohol facility.

“The conference was well put together, with lots of interesting sessions to learn new things about professionalism in the workplace, networking, etc.,” said Brink, a member of the Dean’s List. “It was an amazing experience, and I hope I get a chance to attend again.”

With a 2015 graduation approaching fast, Michael Daly, a senior in the psychology program, is getting ready for life after a bachelor’s degree. He wants to attend graduate school and to do research in the field of utilizing computer technology in education.

“The realities that are waiting for me on the other side of graduation are looming,” said Daly, who has been selected to the Dean’s List every semester. “This conference allowed me to prepare for these challenges and maximize use of the tools that a Penn State New Kensington education has given me.”

Initially, Daly had low expectations about the benefits of attending the conference. According to the Tarentum native, he didn’t think the conference would involve anything but “cold, unfeeling business people judging my every move and article of clothing.“ The pre-judgment was off base as those same business people turned his experience into a positive one.

“I found that the educators and business people were open and helpful, looking for ways they could help each person, not judge them,” said Daly, a graduate of Highlands High School. “Every scheduled activity was focused on bringing out the best qualities of every participant and teaching us how to professionally present these qualities.”

Educational sessions, presentations and panel discussions provided the gist of the two-day agenda. In addition, conference attendees participated in an etiquette luncheon and networking dinner.

“I especially liked the panel of business men and women who were able to give us direct feedback on what employers are looking for while answering questions from the audience,” said Jennifer Phillips, a junior psychology major.

A resident of Vandergrift, Phillips went to the conference to improve her ability to look and act professional and to network with business professionals in the region. After receiving her bachelor’s degree next year, she will head to graduate school and work in a career where psychology and technology come together, such as Human-Computer Interaction, which encompasses computer science, behavioral sciences and design.

“Leader Launch was a really worthwhile and valuable experience, where I gained useful new skills to use in my search for both an internship and a career,” said Phillips, a member of the Psi Chi and Alpha Sigma Lambda honor societies. “It was an excellent networking opportunity and learning experience."

For Samantha Simon, a senior business, management and marketing major, the “Careers in Action” session was the highlight of the conference. The session included presentations and panel discussions by various industry leaders.

“I loved the CIA (Careers in Action) panel, which was just raw information that I was really excited to learn about,” said Simon, a product of Lenape Tech and a fixture on the campus’ Dean’s List. “It’s always reassuring to know that professionals are willing to take time out of their schedule to talk to you.”

Experienced alumni encouraged to share
Penn State New Kensington's Lauren Blum, assistant to the director of academic affairs and Jim Shields, coordinator of career services, helped organize the upcoming event. They are encouraging students to take advantage of the opportunity. In addition, they want successful alumni to share their secrets to success with the fledgling workforce participants.

“This is an opportunity for Penn State alumni with more experience to 'give back' to the University,” Shields said. “Alumni can help current undergraduates learn about careers in their fields and about the benefits of leadership, networking and communication skills in the workplace.”

The conference is open to juniors, seniors and associate degree students, as well as recent alumni. The cost is $50, and includes the conference, a night at the hotel and meals.

For more information or to register, contact Jim Shields, 724-334-6065 or xjs8@psu.edu or Lauren Blum, 724-334-6063, ldb14@psu.edu or visit www.nk.psu.edu/LeaderLaunch.

Media Contacts: 

Bill Woodard

Work Phone: 
724-334-6049
Home Phone: 
724-335-0473
Cell Phone: 
724-594-8421

Alumni and Public Relations Specialist

Last Updated December 18, 2014