Webinar Recap: Engaging Students with Career Services for Future Success

No matter the size of an institution, nor one’s resources, vying for students’ attention is always a challenge. Since the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted more traditional means of engaging students, career services staffs have had to adapt. To provide a space for collaboration and best strategies for success, Symplicity convened an expert panel with: Patrick Francis, Senior Experiential Learning Programs Manager at Purdue University; Quanisha Kumi-Darfour, Associate Director of Student Relations at Illinois State University; and Wendy Winter-Searcy, Director of Career Services at Colorado School of Mines. All three institutions differ from one another in student population, how they best engage with students, and their successes. In case you missed it, here are some highlights from our conversation.

What Is Success?

At Purdue, which supports over 50,000 students, Francis’ office measures not by the number of students getting full-time jobs, but the number of students getting exposure to opportunities such as experiential learning, research, micro credentialing, internships, and more. One example of that at Purdue is that freshmen students are enrolled in a career class once on campus.

Similar to Purdue, Illinois State University is also interested in getting students connected, rather than their career outcome; it’s getting them in the door and engaging with the office first from what industries and disciplines they want to be connected to, and connecting them to the right people. The 20,000 students at Illinois State aren’t required to spend time with the career services office, but instead it’s done through cross-campus collaboration between staff, faculty, and departments. At Illinois State, success is measured by cross-campus collaboration and touch points with students.

At Colorado School of Mines, a STEM institution with roughly 8,000 students, the focus is on a long-term goal of ensuring that at least 90% of all students find an employment opportunity by the time they graduate. This is reflected in the CSM System, affectionately known as "Digger," (an ode to their mascot) which is an integral part of the campus culture. The centralized and integrated system ensures that students are well-equipped to succeed in their careers.

Embedding [career exploration as an] expectation in the culture from the President on down and throughout the campus can really make a big difference."


Wendy  Winter-Searcy, 

Director of Career Services at Colorado School of Mines


Meet Where the Students Are

COVID-19 brought on many challenges to career services, that still exist today. At Illinois State, the career service offices has continued to offer workshops and events online finding more success that way. This, in particular has engaged the institution’s international student population by offering workshops on how to get work sponsorship, work culture in the U.S., and more. This has enhanced the office’s engagement with international students by offering tailored programming that is relevant to them.

Additionally, all three panelists found great success at their institution by offering tailored programming specific to different demographics of students from first generation, international, based on major, industry, or discipline. When there are more generalized approaches, students don’t have a sense of connection or relevancy to them. "We have made sure to invite employers who have a commitment to diversity statement or demonstrated data that they can talk to our students about. Particularly, as students seek out companies that are welcoming to them regardless of how they identify," said Kumi-Darfour.

Utilizing Symplicity CSM

For Purdue, Colorado School of Mines, and Illinois State University, being on the Symplicity CSM platform has enabled their campuses to be better equipped to support students. At Purdue that means making data-informed decisions to see which students are or are not engaged with the career services offices or an experiential learning opportunity. Using CSM’s kiosk module, Francis and his colleagues can see what students have registered, but didn’t show up to an event and actively engage with them. This informs Purdue to see what measures are working, and what are not working.

"I think it’s very evident that the data that is in Symplicity enables us to do a lot of outreach and empower the programs that we are all doing and better track engagement… Using the new student interface in CSM has definitely helped with banners at the top and our branding and cross branding with different programs at a large institution, is key for us to get them different opportunities. Using CSM is kind of it’s everything that we do not and it’s a big thing, but it’s embedded in every program and every person on our team has an opportunity to use it"


Patrick Francis 

Senior Experiential Learning Programs Manager, Purdue University


As a STEM-focused institution, Colorado School of Mines heavily relies on data to inform its office. One is through the First Destination Surveys seeing what students they are serving, what students are they missing, and utilizing the data for how the institution can fill the gaps and focus better attention on areas that need more resources and support. Colorado School of Mines utilizes the email campaigns and survey features to get a pulse on what their students are needing and need support on, all within the CSM, centralized system. "With over 8,000 students we had over 50 percent actively using Digger, our CSM system, last year with almost 40,000 logins. So all of the components have been super helpful to drive that student engagement and then to be able to quantify it and understand where we're touching students," said Winter-Searcy.

Illinois State University has used the data available in Symplicity to identify a gap in reaching their STEM students and took action by tailoring programming to better engage them. They track everything within Symplicity, from meetings with career ambassadors to attended programs, even tracking whether something was required by a faculty member. Illinois State ties data to faculty member involvement, identifying career services partners and campus advocates for future programming and engagement. Additionally, Illinois State uses CSM’s Pathways module to connect with alumni who want to serve as mentors to current students. This data management aspect is crucial for identifying priorities and enhancing their institutional goals to support student success.

Additionally, having a unified, trust resource available to all students that all staff members have access too, with school branding and customization has been key to building trust among colleagues and students.

"The data management aspect and everything that Symplicity can track is absolutely crucial for figuring out our priorities for the coming year."


Quanisha Kumi-Darfour
Associate Director of Student Relations, Illinois State University


For the full conversation, watch the recording below! Wish to learn more about how Symplicity Career Services Manager (CSM) can enhance your institutional goals to supporting student success in your office? Contact us at hello@symplicity.com or find out all that CSM has to offer here.


CSM, career development, Experiential Learning, career readiness, Career Services, client experience, employability, Student Success, Career Centers, Data Sharing, Information Technology, early talent, student outcomes

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