Continued Connections: Engaging Students During a Pandemic

Continued Connections: Engaging Students During a Pandemic

Students at desk

The pandemic has forced some changes, but staff and faculty at Fairfield Dolan are determined to ensure programs continue in new online formats so students remain connected.

A personal connection with faculty and staff, and with one another, is a hallmark of the student experience at the Charles F. Dolan School of Business.

“That opportunity to really know your professors, to engage in projects with your peers, to join a club or pop into the Career Development Center to talk about your internship, is one of our bragging points. Those connections give our students the extra edge,” says Career Development Center Director Sarah Bollinger, MEd. “We are determined not to let that diminish.”

And so, with some modifications, Dolan signature programs have transformed and thrived.

The Dolan Partners Program
Six years ago, the Dolan School piloted a mentor program, pairing first-year students with upperclassmen within the School. Each mentor commits to reaching out to their mentees via phone and email before the semester begins, in September, and again during advising and registration, says Christina Puttock, Dolan undergraduate program coordinator.

“The transition to college is not only academic, it’s social as well,” says Erica Spencer, MEd, assistant director of undergraduate programs. “We try to pair students by major as well as geography, if possible, so there’s a connection that helps break down barriers.”

Kevin Kryzwick ’21 is a mentor in the Dolan Partners program. The marketing and finance major is also a member of the Dolan Advisory Board and was part of a discussion on helping incoming students acclimate.

The online “Let’s Talk About It” event, held twice, was born from that discussion. Upperclassmen served as panelists and first-year students logged in to listen and ask questions. Discussions ranged from clubs, to maintaining mental health and self-care, to tactics for success in each program, and more.

“As a panelist I was able to get firsthand knowledge of what students are expecting, what they’re struggling with, and how we can help them,” says Kryzwick. “I do think that overall the webinars were a success and I hope they’ll continue.”

Fall Into Dolan
For first-year students and sophomores who have not yet focused on a major, Fall Into Dolan is a significant event, a chance for professors and club advisors from each of the seven areas of study to talk about their fields and answer questions.

Because the event was far too big to be conducted safely in person this year, an online format was necessary. “We didn’t feel a single event over Zoom would capture the essence of this unique event, so we changed it up, holding an online event each night over the span of two weeks,” says Puttock.

Camelia Micu, PhD, associate professor of marketing, shared that she saw benefits to the online format and preferred it. She gave students an overview of the marketing program, while colleague Julie Marella, director of the Marketing Analytics and Strategy program and marketing club advisor, discussed opportunities through the marketing club. All in all, “I felt it was much easier to get my points across, and it was helpful for students to have the presentation right in front of them.” Of the 75 students who joined her presentation, several emailed her after with questions.

The results of the online events surpassed Bollinger’s expectations. “We had over 400 students log in. And since most students double major, the ability to attend multiple events was really helpful,” says Bollinger.

Career Night
Normally a major event where Advisory Board members, alumni, community leaders, and students converge to network, this year Career Night was held very differently.

“We hosted three online events, with different majors represented each night. Each event included a keynote speaker followed by online breakout rooms for students to engage with a mentor,” says Bollinger. Mentors are asked to talk about their career path and to share advice, but to also get to know students and to encourage discussion. The evening is sponsored by Bank of America.

Members from the clubs associated with that major were also on hand. Says Christopher Masherelli ’23, president of the accounting club, “Networking is a big part of Career Night, especially now as students look for internships. They had suggestions about building up their resume, improving their interview skills, and setting themselves apart.” And, he added, the speakers’ contact information was always on display so students could stay in touch.

Tags:  Dolan School


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