Center for Career and Professional Development exposes students to opportunities with employer panel, career fair


Finding a job after graduating college is a competitive process, for both students nearing graduation as well as university administrators trying to help those students figure out their next step in life.

Thursday’s Spring 2024 Lonnie B. Smith, Jr. Career Fair at Grambling State University (GSU) offered that next step toward an end game for those students and administrators as well as the approximately 70 potential employers on hand at the Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.

It was part of a two-day event that began with a “Candid Conversations About Careers and Opportunities” held Wednesday night in the GSU Nursing Building Auditorium.

Candy Gerace, Human Resources Director for Hunt Forest Products, LLC based in Ruston, was one of the panelists at that forum.

“I thought Candid Conversations was a great event,” Gerace said. “In fact, the young lady who moderated (Grambling Student Government Association President Alexa Johnson) — I thought she was a communications major instead of a biology major,” Gerace said. “I was impressed with the forum and the questions the students asked. I thought it was all done extremely well.”

The other three panelists at the “Candid Conversations” forum were Latetao Hutchinson from J.P. Morgan Chase, Ambrielle Rison from Coca-Cola United, and Robert Wiley from Louisiana National Bank.

Those panelists answered questions posed by GSU students, including strategies to enhance professional development, soft skills needed to help land jobs, and what employers are looking for as far as necessary grade point averages.

The panelists all agreed that skill sets are more important than high grade point averages, and all four also stressed the importance of keeping up with current technologies and being careful about what is posted on social media sites that could be found by potential employers.

Thursday afternoon, as the Career Fair was ending, Director of GSU’s Center for Career and Professional Development Antoinette Livingston expressed her pleasure at the way it all turned out.

“I think it’s been a great, great day, ” Livingston said. “The students have given me a lot of good feedback that they’re happy. And the students who aren’t getting what they want, they’ve given me feedback and they’re going to come see me next week so that we can fix it so that the next Career Fair will be even better.

“Even the employers who are here today have told me they’re excited about both the Candid Conversations last night and the Career Fair today. We’re already making plans for next fall.”

Livingston said she was happy with this year’s turnout, which she feels rivaled last year’s.

“The employer turnout is about average — the same as last year,” Livingston said. “It’s harder to tell about the student turnout because they come and go. But it’s probably about the same as last year.”

Livingston also stressed that she feels the Career Fair is important enough that all potential graduates (juniors and seniors) should attend.

“It should be mandatory for students to attend,” Livingston said. “We shouldn’t be holding classes while the Career Fair is going on.”

Brittney Noland, Human Resources Specialist with the Louisiana Department of Transportation, admitted that looking for a job as well as looking for an employee can be competitive.

“We’re recruiting for our positions but do have a competitive process,” Noland said. “The students go to our website, apply online, and then we’ll recruit potential employees after learning more about them through that process.”

“DOTD has 4,300 positions around the state. We have engineering technicians, equipment operators, and engineers, but then we also have the business side of things that help our people working in the field, so we have job openings in marketing, human resources, legal, real estate, budget, finance, and accounting. We have pretty much everything. The only things we don’t have (openings for) are internet technology and health. Those jobs are within other state agencies and are typically contracted out from those agencies.”


The Ochsner LSU Health Center in Shreveport was represented by Senior Nurse Recruiter Jessica Carter.

“We have everything from environmental services on up,” Carter said. “The only thing I don’t recruit for is actual physicians because that’s a whole other level. But from nurses to physical therapists to business office workers and that kind of thing, I recruit them all.”

Dallas Key, Manager of Talent Acquisition for Taylor Technologies, a software company based in Plano, Texas, was also on hand recruiting potential employees.

“We have offices across the U.S. — about 63 offices — so we can offer multiple landing spots for new graduates seeking a job,’ Key said. “Now our headquarters is in Plano, so a lot of those are what are called satellite offices, but we go well beyond Texas.”

Key said it was his company’s first exposure to GSU and that he was going to walk away impressed.

“I’ve seen students from a broad range of areas that could help our company,” Key said. “It’s been a really versatile student group and I’m really excited about hopefully bringing some of them to come work with us.”

Annette Hock, Manager of Human Resources for Entergy, said that her corporation is always paying attention to GSU graduates.

“We have an abundance of jobs available for GSU students,” Hock said. “We have engineering internships right now posted and available. We also have available positions in our engineer and IT groups and coordinate with GSU’s Career Center about those.”

“And we have other internships that become available throughout the year in things like human resources, IT, and accounting. We have a plethora, but not all of those are open right now. Primarily it’s engineering right now. We’re located throughout Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi, so when it comes to the South — the GSU region — we’re everywhere.”

Hock said that internships that provide learning and then a chance to prove hands-on abilities are keys to landing jobs.

“What that kind of exposure means was something that I didn’t realize when I was a college student,” Hock said. “But that’s the first thing a company looks for when they’re hiring. They want hands-on exposure and experience. So, a graduating student who can say that they’ve been exposed to a job and have actually performed job functions —- that’s key. That’s the best way to go.”

It’s no secret that there is a shortage of teachers throughout America’s schools, and Richland Parish (Louisiana) was among a number of school systems recruiting at the Career Fair and was represented by Assessment and Accountability/Child Welfare and Attendance Supervisor Samuel Williams.

“We’re just here recruiting teachers,” Williams said. “And there are some great candidates here. The biggest thing is trying to get them to come our way. We’re also talking to non-education majors who might have thoughts in the back of their mind about the possibility of becoming an educator and giving them information about what steps they can take on the back end of accepting a job about how to become certified after already starting work.”

Gerace said she was impressed by the way the GSU students presented themselves during the Career Fair.

“The main thing I’ve picked up is that they really enjoy being a student here,” Gerace said. “I actually had one student tell me that this is like a family here. She was from Dallas and said she came here because she had been told how much of a family-oriented university it is.”

“And the students are well-versed and dressed immaculately — very professional and prepared.”

Kirsten Porter, a GSU graduating accounting major from Baton Rouge, said the Career Fair is a great resource for students like her preparing to enter the workforce.

“I love the chance we’re getting to network and the opportunities for internships — I think it’s been a success,” Porter said. “I like that the Career Fair offers a lot of different opportunities for different majors and the fact that it has a lot of inclusivity. There’s a lot being offered here.”

Rashun Donald, a junior business marketing major from Gary, Indiana, said he felt it was important to attend the Career Fair before his senior academic year to hopefully make early contacts who could become potential employees once he nears graduation.

“There’s a lot of good companies here giving us a chance to show our skill sets that we’ve acquired,” Donald said. “So, for me, it’s a blessing to have all of these companies here taking a look at us.”

The Fall Career Fair is scheduled for October 17.