The fall 2013 classes marked the first months of operation for the Babb Center for Student Professional Development at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, and students, employers and the center’s director all agree it was a successful semester.
The Babb Center has seen success through the strength of its workshops and the dual benefit it offers for both students and local companies. The center offers a variety of professional development opportunities to students to develop skills to excel in the workplace while also serving as a valuable recruiting tool to employers in the region.
Babb Center Director Ron Orick of Fort Smith said the center has “had a successful launch this fall.”
“Student registration is above expectations, and employers have been very supportive and participative in the events and workshops,” he said.
The Babb Center was created after Doug and Kathy Babb made a donation to the University to provide a professional development resource for students. Doug, a member of the UAFS Foundation Board and former member of the College of Business Dean’s Leadership Council, worked with former College of Business Dean Steve Williams to develop the center.
Marta Loyd, former vice chancellor for university advancement at UAFS, said the couple’s donation was a result of their “community-minded” selflessness.
“The reason they feel so good about the gift is because they recognize the value of professional development for UAFS students,” she said. “Beyond that, they feel very strongly about giving back to their community, and to them, UAFS represents the strength of the community.”
The University asked Orick to head the center -- a position which he accepted in July 2013 -- and Orick began collaborating with regional employers acting as focus groups to develop a non-credit certificate program for students who participated in the center.
The certificate -- called Distinction in Professional Development -- consists of different activities relating to job preparation and professional growth, including workshops on writing a professional resume, creating a career action plan and learning interviewing skills.
Students can earn a silver level or gold level certificate, the latter requiring extra activities including completing an internship. Orick said students should expect to complete the program in four semesters but added that students who would graduate before being able to finish the program can attend center events for personal betterment.
A popular example of the center’s activities is the corporate mixer, which provides students an opportunity to practice their networking skills with organizational representatives in an informal setting.
Many participants took advantage of the mixer held Jan. 22 in the Boreham Library. Arkansas Best Corp. hosted the event and brought several representatives from their various subsidiaries.
Carrie Owenby, recruiting manager at Arkansas Best Corp., said events like the corporate mixer give students a chance to stand out as job candidates.
“It’s great to come to an event like this and meet people we may potentially hire,” she said. “We hired two people from the corporate mixer in the fall. It helps for applicants to have something on their resumes to help them stand out, and being a part of this program does that.”
UAFS student Brittany Wilson of Lavaca, a participant of the center and attendee of the Jan. 22 corporate mixer, said the center has helped her to “decipher the myths” of job hunting.
“People sometimes say you have to be a certain age or demographic to get into this company or that company, but it’s nothing more than a myth,” she said. “It’s about who you are as a professional, and that’s what the center is about -- enhancing your professional skills.”
Wilson attended the corporate mixer in hopes of learning more about the companies involved, and she said she was not disappointed.
“The networking event was very beneficial. It is worth knowing what areas of expertise different positions require, as well as what their industry outlook is,” she said. “I gained some valuable insight into several companies.”
Orick said 92 students have signed up for the center, which is being piloted in the College of Business for its first two years, and he expects that number to reach 125 by the end of the spring semester.
To be eligible to apply for the Babb Center, students must be accepted into the UAFS College of Business, be enrolled in or have completed the Business Communications course and must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.50 or higher.
For more information about the center, contact Orick at email@example.com or 479-788-7019.