11:41 AM

'CEO Program' Gives Students Backstage Access to Local Businesses

This spring, the UHD STAR Program and Career Development Center launched the Career Exploration Opportunities (CEO) Program in partnership with four local business entities: Houston House of Blues, Houston Methodist Research Institute, Houston Astros and the Houston Chronicle.

The goal of the program is to teach students how to conduct informational interviews and network with their peers and employers. The pilot group of 45 UHD students visited each of the partner organizations and met with key personnel who gave them behind-the-scenes access to businesses that previously may have seemed unreachable.

Students from the Summer Fast Track, Freshman Summer Success Program, Honors Program, Connections Mentoring Program, and other first year programs were invited to apply. In addition, three English classes taught by Professor Dawn Bradford-Jackson were included. Upon acceptance into the program, participants committed to attend the program in its entirety, which consisted of three phases

Phase one involved taking a TypeFocus personality assessment, reviewing the results, and reflecting on the correlation between understanding one's personality and career exploration. In this phase, students also learned how to perform an informational interview and how to dress professionally when visiting a business.

Phase two was a trip to one of the partner organizations, during which groups of 10 to 15 students accompanied by 2 or more professional staff members, toured the facility, learned about various job opportunities, and met with employees who responded to questions and offered advice.

The program finale took place Thursday, when students gathered for a reception during which they shared their experiences, celebrated their efforts and discussed their next steps toward career success.

Each CEO group had an opportunity to share the major lessons they learned during their business visits; the common themes included the importance of:

  • developing a global perspective, including traveling abroad,
  • maintaining an open mind when exploring career opportunities,
  • flexibility and adaptability in the workplace,
  • building connections,
  • and gaining valuable experience through internships and programs similar to CEO.

One student commented: "This experience has really opened my eyes and has reignited my interest in choosing the right career path. I was given great advice that I will always remember."

The CEO Program was developed by Katrina Borders from the STAR Program and Maggie Mahoney from the Career Development Center, along with a committee comprising members from the STAR Program, University College, Academic Advising, and Assessment offices.