By Neil Nachbar
Each year, the URI Center for Career & Experiential Education hosts an engineering and technology fair. This year’s event, held on Oct. 4 at the Ryan Center, attracted representatives from 80 companies and more than 500 students.
As a way of creating a more private setting in which engineering students could spend additional time with industry representatives, Tammy Leso, coordinator for the URI College of Engineering, planned a Leadership Networking Breakfast.
“I started organizing the event over the summer by contacting some of our top employers to gauge their interest,” said Leso. “I targeted companies that have consistently hired our students for internships and full-time employment, however, any of the employers attending the career fair who indicated an interest in the breakfast were welcome to attend.”
Held in the Alumni Room of the Ryan Center, just prior to the start of the career fair, 39 leaders from 10 of the College of Engineering’s student organizations were invited to meet representatives from 15 companies that participated.
“It was extremely beneficial to meet some of the industry representatives at an event that was more private than the career fair,” said Kelly Domogala, treasurer of URI’s student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). “When I saw them again at their booth at the career fair, they were interested in continuing our conversation.”
In addition to speaking to the students about their career aspirations, the industry representatives also offered advice to help their organizations succeed.
“We described the type of events and workshops we run and the representatives offered a lot of great suggestions on how we can enhance our professional, educational and community service programs for our members,” said Tyler Gonsalves, communications chair of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
A few of the companies expressed an interest in maintaining an open dialogue and connection with the student groups.
“Several industry representatives were interested in doing workshops with us to help our members stand out above the competition,” stated Gonsalves.
The URI chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) also made connections at the breakfast, which will benefit the organization in the future.
“I met reps from companies such as Raytheon, General Dynamics Electric Boat, and Pratt & Whitney who were interested in arranging site visits and guest speaker events,” said Dan Brogan, president of the URI ASME chapter. “As a club that was restarted less than a year ago, opportunities like this will help tremendously.”
The smaller, quieter setting of the networking breakfast enabled the representatives to spend more time getting to know the students and their organizations.
“It was a pleasure to be involved with the student leadership,” said James Dwyer, vice president of technical operations for Millstone Medical Outsourcing. “Learning about the broad range of student organizations available to URI engineering students was enlightening. It was very beneficial to observe their interpersonal skills, as well as their passion for their organizations.”
Millstone Medical Outsourcing was one of many companies at the breakfast and the career fair that often accepts URI students for internships and hires URI students full-time after they graduate.
“Last spring, we had two URI College of Engineering students do internships with us,” said Dwyer. “They contributed to our company’s success and are being considered for job offers upon their graduation. We also have two recent graduates who were hired full-time and are both succeeding brilliantly. They are working on engineering efforts on medical devices.”
Rite-Solutions, which was also represented at the breakfast, employs many URI graduates.
“The list of URI graduates working at Rite-Solutions starts right at the top with our CEO, Joe Marino,” said Susan Borden, human resources manager. “In the past three years or so, many of our new software engineers have graduated from URI. We look for people who have a solid engineering background, as well as good interpersonal skills and a desire to contribute to the success of our team. We look forward to continuing our relationship with URI.”
Gianluca De Luca, who is the vice president of product development for Delsys Inc. / Altec Inc., said his company has been impressed with the URI graduates it has employed.
“In the past two years we have hired four URI graduates and thus far have been very pleased with these individuals and the academic training they received from the biomedical engineering and computer engineering programs,” said De Luca. “The key quality I look for is a passion for their particular craft or the engineering discipline. I look for people who want to be great engineers and go out of their way to further their engineering skillset, beyond the academic programs in which they were enrolled.”
Pare Corporation, an engineering and planning firm with an office in Lincoln, RI, has also hired many URI engineering students.
“We have a long history of hiring engineers who graduated from URI, many of whom have helped the firm develop the reputation it has today,” said J. Matthew Bellisle, P.E., senior vice president
of the geotechnical division at Pare Corporation. “Our president is a graduate of the University and I am also a URI graduate (BS ’92, MS ’01).”
Bellisle, whose daughter Rachel attended the breakfast as a representative of SWE and the national engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi, said URI graduates compare favorably to their counterparts from other institutions.
“Each year we receive many resumes from colleges throughout the area. The URI graduates always compare well,” stated Bellisle. “Whenever I hire a URI COE graduate, I’m not disappointed by their level of education and their ability to integrate into a professional work environment.”
Based on the feedback from the company representatives and the students, Leso plans on building upon the success of this inaugural event.
“The reactions were overwhelmingly positive,” stated Leso. “Many industry reps were thrilled with the opportunity to meet our student leaders and learn about the engineering student organizations in this type of setting. The Leadership Networking Breakfast will definitely occur again next year with plans to expand the employer network.”