GSU’s Lonnie B. Smith Career Fair returns to in person format

For the first time in two years, Grambling State University’s Office of Career Services held an in-person Lonnie B. Smith Career Fair recently at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.

After holding the fairs virtually the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 53rd annual version brought students face to face with prospective employers.

Fifty GSU students were able to attend the fair dressed for success thanks to a JC Penney Suit-Up event held on March 20 that was coordinated by GSU Director of Career Services Kellye Blackburn with the help of  David Wilson from Accenture Business Services.

“Thank you David Wilson and the Accenture team for bringing my dream to provide Grambling students with new professional clothes to life,” Blackburn said. “I approached Mr. Wilson with my JCPenny Suit Up Sponsorship idea because of Accenture’s commitment to making an impact in the community through philanthropic efforts.”

Each of the 50 students who attended the JCPenny Suit up event on March 20, received a $100 JCPenney Gift card to purchase professional clothing.  The remaining 25 gift cards will be given to students to purchase business attire at the Fall 2022 Suit-Up event.

“I look forward to a continued partnership with Accenture as Grambling strives to become Accenture’s HBCU of choice when seeking to recruit top talent,” Blackburn said.

The career fair is named in honor of the late Smith, a Safety and Engineering professor in GSU’s Department of Industrial Arts who for 34 years also served as the university’s Director of Placement. Smith passed away in 2005.

Blackburn said she was pleased to finally be able to have GSU students meet once again face-to-face with prospective employers.

“I’m really happy to be open and back live on campus,” Blackburn said of Tuesday’s event. “We’ve got 63-plus employers, 20 industries represented including federal agencies, top Fortune 100 companies, and more than 20 school districts. We had more than 150 students registered before the event.

“The last three fairs have been virtual over the past year and a half and those actually had many more employers participating. We had 150 employers for last spring’s career fair and 200-plus participated in the virtual fair last fall, so we get more diversity virtually for those employers who might not be able to travel to rural Louisiana for a fair. We had 120 employers participate in a virtual fair in February, so I’m kind of a fan of both virtual and in-person.”

Blackburn said that it’s important that students get an early start on the career fairs as opposed to waiting until their senior years to start attending.

“Career development is really important for students of all classifications to come out to a career fair just to learn about the job market and learn about industries and what types of opportunities are available so that they can build their skills to match what employers are looking for.”

Junior psychology major and GSU tennis team member Georgina Kaindoah was one of the students taking early advantage of Tuesday’s career fair.

“It’s been difficult but you just kind of find the balance between school and tennis,” Kaindoah said. “It’s about time management and planning. And athletics helps with that because you need that to play a sport like tennis as much as you do to succeed academically. Both are about discipline. And you want to work hard and start early in whatever you do, be it academics or athletics. That’s why I wanted to come today and begin making contacts that will help me in the future, even though I’m still a junior.”

GSU Vice President for Advancement, Research and Economic Development Melanie Jones was on hand for the event.

“(The) career fair is an incredible opportunity to connect our students with internships and rewarding careers aligned with their academic major and other personal or professional priorities,” Jones said. “It is exciting to host this event in person, affording all participants — employers and students — the chance to engage in meaningful dialogue, experience each other’s authentic qualities, and connect in ways to help better determine alignment — something that just cannot be achieved in the same way in a virtual setting. Additionally, it is always a privilege to host our hiring partners on-campus, where they get a firsthand experience of all the exceptional things about GSU.”

Junior senior Deja Southall, a business management major from Chicago, and Skyler Raines, a junior biology major also from Chicago, attended the event together.

“We went to a few concerning biology, my major. It was a cool event. There were a lot of schools there looking for graduate students, and that’s something to consider. I’m glad I came,” Raines said. 

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