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Overview

Summary

Format and Setup

Panel Presentation

Evaluations

Results

Summary

On March 14, 2008, the Women's Resource Center held the 10th Annual Women & Careers Conference at the Pointe in the Pyramid. The following is a summary of the event and its evaluation.

The conference included a six-member panel, moderated by CSULB Assistant Professor of Journalism Carla Yarbrough. The panelists shared their life experiences (career, personal and educational) through structured and moderated discussions. Small group discussions were also held during breaks and at the lunch following the program.    

The goal of the Women & Careers conference has always been to expand student perceptions of career possibilities.  The entire conference, including the panel presentation, attendee registration packets, room set-up, and pre- and post- conference evaluations were designed with this goal in mind.

The conference provided both motivational and practical opportunities for students to network, discuss new ideas, and continue career explorations in the future.  Panels emphasized the multiple options available, the importance of being prepared to move into the workforce, and the value of networking, mentoring, education, and goal setting in achieving goals.

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 Format and Setup  

The conference opened with registration, light refreshments, and a pre-conference survey questionnaire. It then moved to a panel presentation and a mid-morning networking break, and ended with a buffet lunch, letters to themselves, and post-conference evaluation.

Panelists and other professional women hosted tables, which attendees were encouraged to visit to speak directly with panelists and other guests.  The program ended with an exercise during which attendees wrote and addressed letters to themselves outlining goals they hoped to achieve within the next three months.  The letters were be mailed during the summer break.

Students and other attendees sat at round tables throughout the program to facilitate conversation and the exchange of ideas.  The setup also provided a comfortable space for presenters and other guests to meet and talk with students. 

A dedicated space in the day’s program for names and contact numbers facilitated the development of individual support and networking systems.  A morning mixer also encouraged the process.

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Panel Presentation

Panelists shared insights and information about their paths, particularly their individual decision-making criteria and processes, challenges met, and goals attained. 

Panelists were invited to present based on criteria such as diversity of career experiences over time, personal and professional factors which influenced their decisions, and the role formal education (B.A. minimum requirement) played in decisions they made, including their current careers.  The panel reflected the general demographics of CSULB students with respect to age, ethnicity, and abilities.

Two questions were addressed by panelists:

  • Who most influenced the decision affecting your current career choice?
  • What personal event in your life has been a determining factor in your decision-making to this point?

These questions were asked by a moderator during the panel discussion.  The panel was interactive in that panelists often responded to other panelists’ comments and students who asked questions.  Attendees asked questions such as how to make connections, where to start looking, how to maximize their time, and what the transition process from school to work was like.They also asked about balancing personal and professional lives.

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Evaluations

A pre-event evaluation form was designed to assess students’ pre-conference knowledge of career exploration methods.  A ten-question post-conference evaluation form was designed to assess the conference in meeting its stated goals and gain feedback about students’ experiences with the conference, ideas for future conferences, and general satisfaction with the program. 

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Results

The pre-event evaluation form indicated that the majority of attendees had limited knowledge of multiple on-campus resources available to them, and were unclear as to the definitions (or applications) of ‘mentoring’ and ‘nontraditional careers.’ 

According to the post-event evaluation results, attendees were highly satisfied with the conference, with the panel discussion emerging as a favorite. Attendees noted:

  • how ‘interesting,’ wonderful,’ ‘diverse,’ ‘knowledgeable,’ ‘informed’ the panelists were – the favorite part of the conference for everyone
  • the willingness of presenters to be network connections and/or mentors
  • the fact that there was planned time to meet and talk with te panelists, faculty, staff, and other students and guests
  • the frank discussion by presenters about their jobs and workplaces, and the energy needed to find “the right fit”

Students also said

  • they would definitely recommend the conference to others
  • they wished they had had this information earlier in their academic careers
  • how good the morning snacks and lunch were
  • their time was well spent
  • the letter to themselves about future goals was very helpful

Students suggested

  • the conference should happen more often
  • it should be marketed better so more people would attend
  • more information about negotiating jobs or benefits should be provided