In October, more than 330 students attended the college’s annual career fair to interact with the 41 employers showcasing their businesses at informational booths. The fair has grown each year since it began in 2011, attracting students and employers eager to connect and align professional skills with opportunities. New this year, a reception the evening before the fair offered an additional venue for students to network with employers.

Of note is the number of alumni who attend representing their employers. “They view the fair as an opportunity to stay connected with the college, and they are well aware of the value of connecting with top-notch candidates from the college’s well-established degree programs,” said Stephanie Hart, director of the college’s Advising Center, which organizes the career fair.

Networking is beneficial for both the college and the companies and organizations the alumni represent, according to Jeff Dawley (’07 B.A. geography), a defense account manager with Esri, an international supplier of geographic information system software.

“It’s a great way to maintain a professional relationship with the college,” he said. “We can keep the faculty and students informed about new developments and technologies that will prepare them for their careers, and we can directly interact with the students who will be candidates for our positions.”

All students are encouraged to attend, Hart explained. “Even if they aren’t ready for full-time employment or an internship, they can see how a career fair works and get some practice. It’s so important to network and make connections early.”

Carmyn Haddix, a sophomore wildlife conservation major, heeded that advice and plans to return next year to seek internships and summer positions. “I’m glad that I went,” she said. “While talking to employers from each category that attended, I learned about the interdisciplinary application of geographic information systems. I actually ended up adding it as minor.”

Several employers have returned to the fair each year since 2011, including Bartlett Tree Experts, International Paper, Packaging Corporation of America, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Some employers conduct on-site interviews the day after the fair. “We were looking for potential packaging interns and received a lot of great resumes,” said Sarah Applegate (’13 B.S. industrial design), a packaging engineer with Newell Brands. “We held interviews the next day and made offers to two students shortly thereafter.”

Alumni know firsthand that the college’s students have both an exceptional education and experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom.

“Virginia Tech students have often taken the opportunity to gain experience through internships, class projects, and/or undergraduate research, so it’s a great place for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to hire,” explained Mary Dail (’99 B.S. forestry and wildlife), a water quality monitoring and assessment specialist for the agency.

Walker Downs (’17 B.S. forest operations and business), an associate procurement forester at WestRock, has attended the fair as both a student and a recruiter. “I went to the fair as a sophomore, but I hadn’t started thinking seriously about my career path yet. I ended up getting an internship with WestRock. The next summer, they asked me back and ultimately offered me a job,” he said.