Preparing Students for Work, Citizenship and Life

"We're gaining a facility that matches the highest ambitions of our students with the highest expectations of our employers," said President Kent Fuchs at the ribbon cutting for the new Career Connections Center in the Reitz Union.

Preparing Students for Work, Citizenship and Life

Thank you for that introduction, Brooke and Gloria.

It’s great to hear how much help you have received from the professionals here at the Career Connections Center!

I have to admit something.  I wasn’t like you as a student.  In my 12 years in college and in graduate school, I didn’t visit my career centers. In fact, I’m not even sure they had them!

Instead of attending career development workshops or pursuing internships like so many of our students, I worked as a dishwasher, construction laborer, teaching assistant … and security guard.

In fact, I spent more than two years as a security guard while earning my master’s degree in divinity in Chicago.

One of my assignments was the national headquarters of Allstate Insurance just outside the city.

At that time, Allstate had a ginormous parking lot full of high-end cars that had been damaged in wrecks.  It was my job to patrol the lot.  I had a brown uniform, a badge, a hat and a radio – but they wouldn’t trust me with a gun or a nightstick.

I asked what to do if I encountered bad guys.  They said “Run!”

I asked what I should do if I couldn’t outrun the bad guys.  They said “Call us on your radio!”

When I asked what they would do then, they said, “We’ll tell you to run faster!”

Through using the many services at this new center, I’m confident that Brooke, Gloria and all their peers will get chased too … by corporate recruiters and by the best graduate schools!

It’s really wonderful to be with all of you today, and I just want to take a moment to introduce some very special guests.

We’re fortunate to have with us the Chancellor of the State University System, Marshall Criser III.

Also present are UF Trustee Katie Vogel Anderson, chair of the UF Faculty Senate; Trustee Ian Green, student body president; and Trustee Jason Rosenberg.

Thanks to ALL of you for being here.

Why is this such an important day for the University of Florida?

First, we’re gaining a facility that matches the highest ambitions of our students with the highest expectations of employers.

UF’s career services has achieved top national rankings.  Visitors will find a beautiful, open and collaborative space equal to any university career or corporate recruiting center in the nation.

We also have something very unusual.  On the first floor is a large room with neat racks of hundreds of suits and other professional outfits in a variety of styles and sizes, nice shoes and all manner of accessories.

This is the Molm Family Gator Career Closet. Students who can’t afford business clothing for job interviews or professional opportunities can simply check it out from the Career Closet, just like they check out and return books from the library.

Nearly 200 students have already done so this fall … as has one university president!

In honor of this occasion, I borrowed the tie I’m wearing today from the Gator Career Closet.  It’s just one of 230 ties in their collection.  Nice, huh?

The business clothes are donated by generous people, including Provost Joe Glover, who gave the closet several of his ties.

The second reason today is important is that our new Gator Career Connections Center embodies UF’s commitment … as stated in of our seven strategic goals … to “an outstanding and accessible education that prepares students for work, citizenship and life.”

Students can get career counseling, professional mentoring or polish their resumes here.  Many of have been doing so in advance of the fall Career Showcase later this month.  Some 11,000 UF students attend the fall and spring showcase!

Students can interview with employers in nearly two dozen interview rooms.  They can even get professional “head shots” made for their resumes or Linked In profiles.  I have a feeling those work better than selfies!

In just the past two weeks, Facebook, Exxon Mobil and PwC recruiters have all visited and met with students here.  One of the Facebook recruiters said it’s the best career center they’ve ever seen.

There’s a quote written across one of the walls inside: “You didn’t come this far to only come this far.”

That sums up the third reason this event is so meaningful to me.

After many decades of focused effort, UF was ranked the eighth best public university in the nation by US News this fall.  However, our sights are set on top-five.  Our students accomplish wonderful things by the time they graduate, but the truth is that they are just beginning to realize their own ambitions.

As a university and as individuals, we have a lot ahead, and this beautiful new Career Connections Center will help us make the connections to get there – and beyond! Thank you!