Goal number one for the University of Mississippi School of Nursing is to train excellent nurses. Coming in a close second is helping ensure these qualified, new nurses find a good job upon graduation.
Helping to make that goal a reality is the Ignite Career Fair, which for the first time was a collaboration between the nursing school and the University of Mississippi Career Center in Oxford.
For more than 10 years, the School of Nursing has been hosting the event that features recruiters from hospitals, clinics and organizations from Mississippi and surrounding states for an afternoon to meet prospective employees from the ranks of junior and senior nursing students.
Yesterday's fair, held in the Norman C. Nelson Student Union, was the second led by Farrah Banks, director of Student Affairs and Service Learning in the school. Attending were 200 students and 12 employers, including nurse managers from the Medical Center.
“Last year was my first year to do the event,” Banks said. “I started in January, and the event was in February. I didn't have time to revamp it the way I wanted to, to make it my own.”
This year, however, was a different story.
Farrah Banks talks with seniors Megan Christy and Megan Bauerle.
Banks teamed up with Jonathan Harrington, associate director of employer services at Ole Miss, to provide nursing students on the Jackson campus with the full range of career services available to their Oxford counterparts.
“I had participated in events sponsored by the Career Center on the Oxford campus as a recruiter,” Banks said. She was impressed by the organization of the events and how students had online access to information about the vendors who were attending the events.
“So, I thought, 'why can't we do that here in Jackson?' Jonathan and I had a conversation July of last year to talk about how we could work together to make this happen,” Banks said.
“One of the systems that we use here in the Career Center is EmployUM,” Harrington said. “That is our software system that allows students to see job postings and see employers that recruit here and on campus.”
Harrington added the emails of all the Jackson campus nursing students to the program so that they would have access to the online resource. Students on the Oxford campus are automatically added when they become students. Employers were able to register for Ignite through EmployUM.
Through the online system, students can research employment opportunities, upload resumes and potential employers can upload job opportunities. The benefits provided by the collaboration between the two campuses didn't end there.
Harrington and Liz Johnson, vice president of human resources at Mid-Delta Home Health Hospice, discuss the large turnout for the fair.
Harrington said that part of what the Career Center does for Ole Miss students is help prepare them for that first meeting with a potential employer.
“We put together workshops for students to teach them the necessary skills of how to research companies and how to approach them at campus events,” he said. “For a career fair to be more effective, students need to do their homework. They need to research the companies that are present. They need to really understand what jobs are available and be able to approach the employer.”
He said that recruiters are more impressed when a student approaches them with questions about specific job openings and a basic knowledge of the employer. It's also important that the students dress the part of a successful candidate and that they have copies of well-written resumes on hand.
As a pilot program, Harrington took part in the Leadership Retreat for nursing students, held in October at Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency in Flowood. He presented information to the student leaders about how to prepare for a career fair. Banks said that plans are in the works to continue these workshops in the coming months for the traditional nursing students.
Another first for the career fair were onsite interviews.
Ramie Polk, nurse manager on 4-south, discusses open positions in the stroke program with Morgan Maloney.
“This is the first time that we've ever provided onsite interviews with the Ignite employers. We scheduled an optional time frame to interview students that they meet during the career fair,” Banks said. “We sectioned off a private location in the student union for employers to meet with students for a one-on-one conversation.”
Senior nursing student Lovel Lockhart, of Jackson, was one of the many students awaiting her interview time. She and classmates Keyara Freeman, of Tupelo, Jasmine Stasher, of Madison, and Adreana Crosby, of Collins, were dressed professionally in suits, appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about career prospects available to new graduates.
“Career fairs like this are great for me because it gives me a little bit more information about different departments and different types of nursing,” Lockhart said. “You kind of get a feel for what each institution has, which ones don't really fit into your lifestyle and which ones can give you what you want from the nursing field.”
Ramie Polk, a nurse manager from the stroke program in the neurology department, said that she is looking to fill 10 nursing positions on 4 South in the Adult Hospital. Taking part in Ignite for the first time, she said that she appreciates being given the opportunity to have conversations with so many potential hires at once.
Nursing students, from left, Olivia Fulton, Jordan Jackson, Logan Berry, Regan Crain and Ashley Weaver discuss job openings with Jennifer Randazzo, a human resources recruiter for St.Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington, Louisiana.
“It's so hard to get good applicants, and this way you get to meet them and talk to them,” Polk said. “You get to see different personalities at one time.”
The collaboration has afforded the two campuses an opportunity to fulfill one of UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter's goals: more interaction between Oxford and the Medical Center. Toni Avant, director of the Career Center, said that she sees the collaboration lasting for years to come.
“We are very excited about the collaboration between the two schools,” Avant said. “We will be working with Farrah on an event for the accelerated program on the Oxford campus in June. It is a continuum. I think it's great!”