Careers and internships abound
UND Career Fairs link students with hundreds of regional and national employers
After two hours on the road, Adeline Barto arrived in Grand Forks just in time to slip into a dark pantsuit. An hour before noon, armed with copies of her resume, the second-year mechanical engineering student stepped inside the cavernous convention arena of the Alerus Center.
Before her sprawled 115 booths of employers participating in the University of North Dakota’s Engineering & Technology Career & Internship Fair this Tuesday.
With her hair pulled back and eyes set behind glasses, Barto blazed her trail. In less than an hour, she had amassed a hefty list of companies she had spoken to – Steffes, McLean Electric Cooperative, Graco, Ackerman-Estvold.
“I even talked to a woman with the Secret Service for 15 minutes,” Barto said. “I’ve been all over the mechanical field, civil field, electric field. And now, the Secret Service.”
But Barto is not even a student at UND. She attends Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minn., a school from which many engineering students transfer to UND after completing the college’s two-year program.
But regardless of whether Barto becomes a Fighting Hawk, she was welcome on Wednesday, as the career fairs are open to students from colleges and universities throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.
About 1,500 students attended this semester’s career fairs. In addition to the Tuesday engineering fair, Wednesday saw 80 employers engage with aviation, business and liberal arts majors. A week earlier, accounting students sought jobs and internships.
On Tuesday, “at about quarter to 11am, when the fair opened, I looked out in the hallway, and there must have been 50 students just waiting to come in,” said Career Services Director Ilene Odegard.
From near and far
At the same time, in the arena, employers were still setting shop. Some of them were regional heavyweights such as 3M and Bobcat. Others hailed from afar – the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard near Seattle, for instance, and even the transportation department of Washington State.
Standing in front of her booth, clutching a clipboard, Lisa Popoff with Washington’s Department of Transportation said the agency grapples with a lot of open entry-level positions for engineers across the Evergreen State.
“We are always looking for opportunities to find the best engineers we can,” said Popoff’s colleague, Eric Trupiano. “If that brings us to North Dakota, it brings us to North Dakota.”
And if employers on the Pacific coast realize the talent of UND students, so does the city of Grand Forks. In fact, the latter wants students to remain and work in the community after graduation. Local hands-on experiences such as the internship program between the city of Grand Forks and UND often serve as a trampoline for such a school-to-career leap in the city.
Waiting for the next student to approach her on Tuesday, Haley Rosaasen, human resource specialist with the city of Grand Forks, commended those efforts. Early on at the career fair, she had already identified a handful of competent candidates.
The students she had chatted with were “very well prepared with resumes, asking lots of good questions, even stumping me a few times,” she said. “And, obviously UND Career Services has done a great job with that.”
New location, many opportunities
Career Services has, in fact, put on the fairs so successfully that, in the last several years, the events kept having to shift to bigger locations.
When the old Memorial Union still stood, one of its ballrooms would accommodate the fairs.
“And then we outgrew that,” Odegard said. “ We ended up moving to the Wellness Center for a few years. And we outgrew that. So here we are at the Alerus Center.”
This semester marks the first time the Alerus Center has hosted the UND career fairs.
On Tuesday, away from the bustle, Conroy Unruh, a mechanical engineering senior attending the career fair for a third time this year, scanned the rows of booths. He compared what he saw to the previous arrangement in the Wellness Center.
“I enjoyed going to the Wellness Center because it was closer to campus,” said Unruh. “But even though this is a little farther away, it’s a lot roomier. There’s more room for people to walk around; it’s not as cramped.”
This time around, the whole occasion also carried a little more gravity for the soon-to-be graduate because “I’m desperate to look for an internship.”
Less than hour into the fair, he had already talked to his dream company – Duluth, Minn.-based Cirrus Aircraft.
If that dream morphs into reality, Unruh would be among the many newly minted UND alums who enter the professional world through the University’s career fairs.