Panelists and Protégés

Students and alumni benefit from annual career conference
June 1, 2010
The Fannie Mitchell Career Conference

Early in February, on a weekend when a massive snowstorm held much of the commerce and travel in the Northeast at a standstill, Duke students and alumni gathered on campus for the annual Fannie Mitchell Career Conference.

The Duke Alumni Association and the Duke career center are partners in coordinating the annual conference. Consisting of alumni-led panel discussions on a range of career fields, the conference is meant to inform students about the realities of entering diverse areas such as consulting, global health, law, marketing, journalism, and the nonprofit world.

But the conference is not merely for student edification: Alumni use it as a means to mentor students and also to recruit Duke's top candidates to join their organizations. Michael Sullivan B.S.E. '03, who works for Vodori, a Web-based marketing and consulting firm in Chicago, spoke to students interested in engineering and technology. He says he enjoyed the mentorship aspect of the weekend and was glad to be a sounding board for students' questions. "There are so many things you don't have a forum to ask as an undergrad."

Sullivan, who like most panelists was participating in his first career conference, also noted that recruiting students to work for Vodori wasn't far from his mind. "I'm kind of biased," he says. "I like Duke, and the students are smart." His biggest piece of advice for engineering students was that they hone what are called soft skills like communication and teamwork in preparation for entering the workplace.

Nine of the seventy-three scheduled alumni panelists had to cancel because of the weather, but student attendance at the conference was strong: Nearly 400 attended, and most attended more than one panel discussion.