ABINGTON, Pa. — The Penn State Abington Center for Career and Professional Development (CPD) recently hosted a virtual meetup for Black students and professionals. The goal of the event was for the professionals to share career advice related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and for the students to begin building or adding to their networks.
The trio of facilitators included Michelle Daly, employer engagement coordinator in CPD; CPD student peer career advisor Kyra Fripps; and Samirah Herbert, vice president of the student organization Sister2Sister, whose goal is to increase retention among Abington women of color.
The event started on Zoom, where the panelists introduced themselves and were asked general questions by the moderators. The students then moved on to Brazen, a platform used for virtual hiring events and online career fairs. Brazen allowed students to “wait in line” to talk to panelists privately.
The six panelists were:
- Darryl Bundrige, executive director, City Year Philadelphia
- Shelby Chapman, counsel, Legal and Compliance, United States Liability Insurance
- Angelina Isaac, senior diversity and inclusion workforce initiative partner, Independence Blue Cross
- Eddie Lugo, area manager, Enterprise Holdings
- Kwan Morrow, vice president of digital content, Gregory FCA
- Jennifer Taylor, manager of contracts, Universal Health Services
The panelists discussed the best way for students to assess whether prospective employers are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Bundrige suggested that students do their homework online first.
“What are the initiatives, statistics, and plans to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion? Who are you sitting across from in interviews? What are the opportunities for advancement? How is your voice being represented in decisions that are being made? How are you working to address equity?” he said.
“If you are willing and of the mindset to walk into a place that isn’t doing much and play a key role, that’s great, but know that it’s going to be uphill. Choose what you are committing to in that space,” Bundrige continued.
Isaac cautioned that some companies may just be starting their efforts based on the current climate in society.
"Get an understanding of whether their diversity and inclusion initiatives have been woven into their culture,” she said.
Morrow advocated for the direct approach.
“Ask questions: What is your view on diversity? What opportunities would I have to start diversity initiatives to recruit people like me? You may need to be a trailblazer,” he warned.
“You need to broaden the definition of someone who is a mentor. It could be a peer. I want someone who will challenge how I think. You must do it with intentionality to bring in different views.”
— Darryl Bundrige, executive director, City Year Philadelphia
Students were curious to find out more about mentors from the panelists, how the relationships work, and how to find mentors.
Lugo said he has several mentors, one of whom is currently his manager.
“Some of my mentors look like me, and some don’t,” he said. “A mentor is someone who tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. You need to come to your mentor with an agenda. Write down your questions, and be honest with them.”
Taylor advised that a mentorship doesn’t have to be very formal, it can be as simple as coffee or lunch to touch base.
"I do think you need diversity in mentors,” Taylor, whose current mentor is a white male, said. “It does open up different perspectives.”
Bundrige touted the reach of the Penn State Alumni Association.
“It’s the largest in the country, and whether it’s your campus or college, for African-American alumni there are so many different points of connection. Do the research. There are so many points that the Abington Center for Career and Professional Development can connect you with. Penn Staters like to help each other,” he said.
“You need to broaden the definition of someone who is a mentor. It could be a peer. It doesn’t have to be someone older. I want someone who will challenge how I think. You must do it with intentionality to bring in different views,” Bundrige said.
Morrow suggested that students look to professional associations and meetups for mentors.
“The other thing is that if you are fortunate enough to find a mentor, you have to put in the work as well. Show a commitment to your mentor, and be appreciative of their time. As you move up, are there other mentors that you should be seeking out? Who can you learn from?” he said.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With nearly 4,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 22 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.