In early November, JMU students and alumni participated in an inaugural state-wide program called, Hire Virginia. It was a weekend filled with connection, conversation and engagement.
Let’s take a step back and share with you how we got there. The JMU Office of Alumni Relations (OAR) partnered with seven other colleges across the state (UVA, VT, Radford Unv., ODU, VCU, W&M, Norfolk State Unv.) to host the two day event in Norfolk, Virginia. The goal was to engage Virginia- based university students and alumni with employers in the Hampton Roads area, highlighting the career opportunities available in the region and the vibrant culture of living and working within the Tidewater area.
OAR partnered with JMU’s Career & Academic Planning as well as, JMU’s College of Business’s Office of Experiential Learning for the pilot. With the Office of Experiential Learning’s immense experience in implementing and coordinating experiential learning trips it was a truly valuable experience to create a strong foundation for the first year. Students applied to participate in this opportunity and seven students were thoughtfully selected to experience the first-ever Hire Virginia event. These students were also ready to serve in a key role of providing valuable feedback about the inaugural experiential learning opportunity that would help guide the future trajectory of the program.
The first day of Hire Virginia was filled with the chance for JMU students to meet peers from universities across the state and learn more about living and working in Norfolk. From an exciting bike tour through downtown, to a networking reception on the top of the ICON Building the afternoon was a way to introduce Norfolk to the students in a fun and interactive way.
Closing out the first day, our students were able to then enjoy a private Madison Network student/alumni networking reception at Shula’s in the Waterside District. Hearing firsthand from JMU alumni that are living and working in the area was a meaningful way for the students to actually picture themselves doing the same. “Networking” took on a less intimidating twist, as laughter filled the room and lasting connections were formed. As one of the alumni emphasized, in only an hour she already felt so connected to each of the students and wanted to continue to serve as a support to them as they navigated their transition from student to graduate.
Day two of Hire Virginia was focused on career opportunities. With 50+ companies from the area set up for a career fair and on-site interview day, the students had the chance to speak with a variety of employers from various industries offering full-time and internship roles. The day was filled with energy and connection, as networks were broadened and career paths were laid out.
In Hire Virginia’s first launch, the purposeful collaboration between JMU and the other seven Virginia colleges was powerfully evident. With students and alumni from all over the state experiencing Norfolk in this way, the endless opportunities showcased to create a meaningful career and life were invaluable.
As one of our students shared following the full two-day experience at Hire Virginia, ” I would love more students to have this same opportunity that I was given. I think it was very helpful, and that my chances of getting a job are much higher now.”