Imagine 2021 Program Wins Multiple Awards
The Imagine 2021 program—a collaborative new initiative program held over winter break in January 2021—won four statewide awards.
The SUNY Council for University Advancement (SUNYCUAD) awarded SUNY Oswego’s Imagine 2021 program with the Best of Category for Excellence in Alumni Engagement Events and in Campus Community Events.
The SUNY Career Development Organization awarded SUNY Oswego with two of its five annual awards for all 64 campuses. Imagine 2021 received Excellence in Alumni Programming and Excellence in Diversity/Equity/Inclusion Initiatives.
The free and innovative five-week career development program offered to all SUNY Oswego students and Class of 2020 graduates during the Winter 2021 Session, focused on career exploration, building and honing a stand-out online presence and professional brand, discovering internship and job opportunities, and more—all while connecting with alumni, employers and student leaders for mentorship and guidance.
After receiving a charge from SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley to find a new and unique way to engage our student body (and most recent graduates), the Office of Development and Alumni Engagement and the Career Services Office developed Imagine 2021. It was designed so that all students and recent alumni, regardless of class year/major/career field, could participate together—while, at the same time, having enough content and session offerings each week to meet the tailored needs of varying skill levels, experience levels and professional areas of interest.
Organizers Laura Pavlus Kelly ’09, director of alumni engagement, and Gary Morris ’88, director of career services, agreed the success comes from “the Oswego way,” a commitment to inclusive and collaborative approaches that strive for excellence and innovation.
“Knowing our students had a unique fall experience, due to COVID – particularly our first-year and new transfer students – we hoped this program would keep students feeling connected to the institution and to each other, as well as developing new relationships with alumni and career mentors,” Kelly said. “We have colleagues on campus looking to go the extra 10 miles, not even just the extra mile, and put so much effort into delivering. It’s the Oswego way. Everything we do, people come together not to just make it work but to make it fantastic.”
“Other colleges are calling us to see how we did it,” Morris said. “We don’t implement programs to win awards. We do these things because we work at SUNY Oswego, and the Oswego way is how we get things done. Winning awards is just a bi-product of the work we do.”
The program covered the following topics in 39 separate live and on-demand sessions:
- Week One: Imagine Growing! Discover the many possible paths you take and how you can get there.
- Week Two: Imagine Being Your Best! Learn how to compete at the highest level to succeed and understand what employers in your field look for in a new hire. Assess your current value, conduct a gap analysis and start on your career to-do list.
- Week Three: Imagine Becoming a LinkedIn Superhero! Learn how to use this platform to make connections, find internships and job opportunities, join professional organizations and show your expertise.
- Week Four: Imagine Endless Opportunity! Learn where and how to find internships and jobs, and check out some virtual site visits at potential employers.
- Week Five: Imagine Incredible Career Connections! Network with and leverage SUNY Oswego’s 90,000 alumni, meet one-on-one with successful alumni and learn from their experience.
Throughout each week of the program, participants who completed at least three tasks from each Weekly Checklist and shared what they accomplished @hireoz by noon on Friday of each week, while tagging three friends in their post, were entered into that week’s drawing for Oswego swag.
“We were very pleased with the recognitions that our professional colleagues shared with us about Imagine 2021,” Morris said. “Additionally, our conference presentation proposal was accepted so we were able to share this successful program with our colleagues earlier this summer.”
The program attracted a total of 357 unique participants in live events/workshops throughout the five-week period. That number included 229 student/recent alumni attendees; 77 alumni speakers/mentors; 41 Oswego faculty/staff; and 10 guest speakers. The recorded sessions have received more than 1,000 views to date and continue to be relevant and helpful. Check out the recordings: oswego.edu/imagine2021.
Additionally, each week, on top of featuring a diverse body of guest speakers throughout the offered events and workshops, the program incorporated a “My Identity and My Career” Instagram Live chat between a student and an alum – to specifically highlight important diversity and inclusion conversations. These sessions were particularly well-received, as they offered an authentic, genuine and casual conversation, while still allowing participants to send comments and questions through the chat feature. (These Instagram Live chats were so successful that the college continued them as stand-alone student-alumni engagement programming throughout the Spring 2021 semester.)
Of note, the percentage of student participants who identified as diverse was 51 percent, although the same group only represents 31 percent of the total student population.
“That’s a home run,” Morris said. “Our charge for this was to offer something for all students, and we wanted to reflect our campus population and all of our students.”
“Overall, Imagine 2021 was widely well-received by the campus and alumni communities,” Kelly said. “We wanted attendees to be able to see themselves in our speakers.” She added that it was diverse in every sense, including types of students, years alumni participants graduated and the fields they entered.
Imagine 2021 has become a living document even as plans are already under way for Imagine 2022 next January. People continue to play the videos, and Imagine 2021 allowed the college to collect valuable evergreen content, like from alumni who now work at LinkedIn telling students and alumni how to maximize their use of that platform as well as LinkedIn Learning.
Feedback suggests that they might be able to condense the program and perhaps combine with other elements, such as NYC Career Connections, which also regularly takes place in January. Finding ways to better engage faculty and student organizations in the process is another goal. But as a first effort, the awards, the ability to help students and the attention of other colleges show that the program reached its benchmarks of success and then some.
“We are very proud of this program,” Kelly said. “I’m so proud of the team that was able to make this a reality. It’s become a gold standard among our peers, and it’s awesome that we made this happen for our Lakers.”
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