“Road Trips to the Real World” – Over a Decade of Connecting Students and Employers via Winter Break Site Visits
All of us in EACE are well aware of the “Road Trips to the Real World” program. We promote it every fall to our students. We know that it provides students with opportunities to “go inside” employers they otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to visit. But have we ever thought about the history of the program, or its impact on the participating students and employers?
The program was originally coordinated by the EACE Liberal Arts Network and officially started in 2001-02. In previous years, a similar program had offered students the opportunity to attend site visits during their Spring Break. These had become less popular over the years, the primary reason being that the timing of Spring Break varies for many schools, making it a challenge to accommodate the availability of interested students. In 2001-02, the Liberal Arts Network established a committee to re-vamp the former program into one that offered site visits during January, when the majority of schools were closed for Winter Break, therefore enabling many more students to participate. The program was originally pitched to the EACE board as follows: "The site visits will be targeted to liberal arts students in their second and third years, although all students are invited. The purpose of the site visit is much the same as it has been in the past: to introduce students to a variety of career paths by giving them the opportunity to meet with employers in those fields at their places of work. The committee has decided to target career fields that traditionally are difficult for students to access on the job search.” During the planning stages, the working title of the program was simply "Winter Break Road Trips.” While brainstorming more catchy titles, the committee came up with “Road Trips to the Real World,” a name that continues to define this program eleven years later.
That first year of the program, seven employers registered as hosts for site visits, including Smithsonian, Department of Justice, Fairmount Ventures, And1 (unfortunately cancelled), Ruder Finn, RFBinder and Random House. Approximately 88 students from EACE member schools were logged as attending these visits (note that this includes some duplicates, meaning the same student attended multiple road trips). Most recently, in the program’s tenth year in 2010-11, there were 39 employers registered to host visits (although three were unfortunately cancelled due to inclement weather). There were 249 unique students who registered for at least one Road Trip in 2010-11 representing 49 EACE member institutions (plus 4 non-EACE schools – hmmmm… how did those students find out about the program?). Some of these students were able to attend multiple road trips (there was a per person limit of three), for a total of 475 participants. In ten years, the there was over a fourfold increase in both the number of employers signing up to host a road trip as well as the number of students participating.
Based on the continuous growth of the program over the years, it can be assumed that it has had a positive impact on both the students participating as well as the employers hosting the road trips. The 2010-11 post-program student survey yielded a 24% response rate. 93% of the respondents stated that they would recommend the program to other students. 83% agreed (strongly or somewhat) that the information gained on the visits in which they participated will be helpful to them in their career development and decision making, that the program gave them the opportunity to network with professionals in a career field of interest to them, and that participation in the Road Trips program was worth their time. The 2010-11 post-program employer survey yielded a 45.5% response rate. 82% of the employer respondents stated that their expectations for participating in the program were met.
Beyond statistics, what proof do we have that this program is truly worthwhile? Perhaps the best measure is the real opportunities and outcomes that have resulted from these Road Trips. What follows are true testimonials gathered from both students and employers participating in the 2010-11 Road Trips to the Real World program.
Ratipriya Suresh, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
I learned about various internship opportunities through the EACE Road Trip Visits. Through these visits, I realized how much I wanted the Graphic Design/Motion Graphics Internship working for WHYY in Philadelphia (which I did get!). We had a brilliant time there as the Volunteer and Intern Coordinator at WHYY gave us a plethora of information, guidelines for application and resume help. It opened my eyes to a new platform of application for my expertise (the production back end or non-profit area) and subsequently kindled my desire to build a professional experience at WHYY in a design related field. All the visits made through the EACE Road Trip certainly surpassed my expectations. Another visit to MTV in New York City even helped me gain a rapport with the coordinator and, in turn, I got my second internship in Times Square working for EPIX HD, an MTVN Viacom subsidiary. A great experience all in all and I recommend everyone to consider the opportunities provided by the EACE Road Trips and go explore! You never know what someone you meet today can do for you tomorrow.
Jill Sloban, Thomas College, Waterville, ME
I participated in the EACE Road Trip at Kemp Goldberg Partners in Portland, Maine. I was the only Marketing Management major in the group, yet the experience was unforgettable. Kemp Goldberg Partners set up different meetings that we could attend ranging from a creative session to a pitch meeting to management meetings - all while sharing different tips at each step of the process. The students could see all aspects of the firm. This was new to me. I currently am employed in the Marketing Department of an organization that only services itself internally. Kemp Goldberg services a variety of clients and offers different opportunities for each of them. It was great to see the contrast of a firm to an in-house advertising operation. I appreciated the effort the organization put into our visit to make it both interesting and interactive. All members of the Kemp Goldberg organization were welcoming and willing to answer questions of the students. The experience was worthwhile and I would look towards Kemp Goldberg was a future employer.
Lisa Lovina, Director of HR Business Operations at WGBH, Boston, MA
WGBH’s first experience participating with the Road Trips program was a very positive one. Our partnership with EACE worked well and they executed their part of the logistics quite smoothly. Advance planning gave us plenty of lead time to develop an activity that allowed us to show off the organization while introducing students to the variety of careers and professions within our industry. The students that joined us that day were interested and engaged. Most were familiar with some aspect of the work we do, and had informed questions for the employees who participated in the event. We were especially pleased that student comments were shared with us after the event. As a first time participant, it was important to hear what worked and what could improve from the students perspective. We look forward to hosting another Road Trip at WGBH.
Ashley Barton, University Relations, Vanguard, Devon, PA
During this trip Vanguard had a unique opportunity to meet a large and diverse group of students with a strong focus on building their career. Students had the opportunity to network with and to meet Vanguard officers and senior leaders who provided an insider perspective on Vanguard.
Diana Vining, Recruitment Outreach Manager, City Year, New York, NY
City Year has participated in the EACE Road Trips to the Real World for the past 3 years. Because several of our east coast sites are within the EACE footprint, we have been able to offer the program in Boston, Rhode Island, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. The Road Trips allow us to develop deeper relationships with EACE member colleges that we already recruit from, providing an opportunity for students to experience City Year's work first hand, as well as open our offices to students from schools that we do not have the opportunity to visit. Previous Road Trips at City Year have included an office tour, a panel of staff members from various departments, a workshop on leadership styles, and even a field visit to meet a team of City Year corps members and observe their service in a school. We have found the college students that participate to be engaged and inquisitive. The Road Trip model is so successful that some of our sites have replicated it during other times of year. City Year certainly plans to participate in this program in the future because it builds our brand among a target audience.
The 2011-12 EACE Road Trips to the Real World are just around the corner! If you are an EACE college member, promote the program to students on your campus. Registration opens at 9:00am on Monday, November 14, 2011. Direct students here for more information. If you are an employer member, consider hosting a trip in January 2013 (as the 2012 trips are already confirmed). This program is clearly beneficial to both students and employers, and hopefully will continue to make connections and offer opportunities for decades to come!
Elisa Seeherman is Director of Career Services at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. She is currently Co-Chair of the EACE Bridges Committee as well as a member of the EACE Road Trips to the Real World Committee.
EACE Bridges Committee Needs Your Suggestions and Your Expertise!
The committee is exploring a new direction for Bridges and we would appreciate your involvement. Do you have a suggested theme or topic that you think might be good for Bridges to highlight? We want to hear it! Do you have ideas for resources that would be helpful to share with the EACE membership? We’ll take those too! Even better, do you have an area of expertise that you would like to share with our members? Bring it on! Please be in touch with Bridges co-chairs, Janine Burt firstname.lastname@example.org, or Elisa Seeherman email@example.com to share your thoughts, ideas, or suggestions. The Bridges committee is also seeking additional committee members for regular contributions to Bridges, one-time offerings, and editors. Can you give some time to sharing great information to EACE members?
Attention All Employers: Road Trips to the Real World is Back
Site visits are an opportunity for students to learn first-hand about various career fields, network with employers, and explore internship and job opportunities. Although the focus of the Road Trips program is exploratory in nature and not intended for recruiting purposes, it is a wonderful opportunity for you to showcase your organization to future potential candidates.
As a participating employer, you are welcome to choose a date and to design the structure for your site visit. Typically, site visits include a panel discussion by employees representing various areas of the organization. Topics of discussion often center on employee backgrounds, job responsibilities, internships and jobs, and advice for entering the field. In addition to panels, site visits can also consist of a tour of the facilities and an opportunity to meet with recent college hires.