Michigan Ross Career Treks Provide Opportunities for Collaboration for Students and Staff

Every year, the Career Development Office, in conjunction with the Och Initiative for Women in Finance, and the Preparation Initiative, collaborate to organize more than 13 career treks for Michigan Ross students, taking them on trips to explore careers and companies across the country. While a lot of work goes into the planning and execution of these trips, they are also a great example of collaboration within the Michigan Ross community at nearly every level — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors. 

Career treks allow MBA, BBA, and prospective students from the University of Michigan to network and learn first-hand about company culture and the cities they might be interested in working in. It is also an opportunity for companies to engage with students, share the types of positions they recruit for, and showcase their company culture. Treks take place over one to four days with students visiting multiple companies. This gives students the opportunity to meet with company representatives and alums while exploring each city. 

Collaboration at nearly every level

Led by Lisa Bradley-Kern, director of the employer relations team, the CDO treks are currently divided among three of her employer relations managers. Annette Ferguson coordinates treks in the consumer packaged goods and healthcare industries; Ty Smith coordinates treks in the financial services industry; and Amy Kienast coordinates treks in the technology, sports business, and entertainment industries.

To kick off the planning process, CDO surveys students to determine the companies and locations of interest. Next, CDO meets with the students and collaborates with them to fine-tune a list of companies before reaching out to companies to gauge interest, set expectations, and coordinate logistics.

CDO staff also attend the treks with the students to facilitate interactions between students and Ross alumni, and to host networking events during the visits. For example, during the tech treks in New York City, CDO and the New York alumni club co-host happy hours, bringing together the students from different treks and members of the New York Alumni Club.

“Some treks feel like a Ross reunion,” said Ferguson. “It’s like seeing your old friends and family. The Ross alumni come out of the woodwork, and it’s a joyful time.”

Besides the main CDO treks, Maria Hayes and Diana Perilla, associate directors of BBA career coaching, help coordinate three treks yearly for the Och Women in Finance Initiative. These treks are for undergraduate students, specifically women interested in finance. While the format of the Och treks is much the same, it is spearheaded by the Office of Undergraduate Programs and Och donors for planning and coordination.  In addition, Jessie Krasa, associate director of BBA career coaching, partners with OUP to coordinate a four-day New York City trek to introduce Preparation Initiative students exploring business career paths to a broad group of companies.

Career treks: then, now, and future

Before 2017, the vast majority of treks (besides Och and Preparation Initiative) were planned by student clubs. CDO saw an opportunity to strengthen the relationship with companies and clubs by overseeing the planning process while collaborating with clubs on certain aspects. This has led to better brand-building of the CDO with alums, companies, and students, while still allowing club leaders to work on treks.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CDO had to pivot and host many treks virtually. Since that time, they have continued in both virtual and in-person formats.

“There is a lot of value to having students physically present, but some treks work better hybrid because it’s hard to get students in the building,” said Kienast. “We are always flexible to make the best experience for the students and the companies.”

Moving forward, CDO is looking to add additional treks to its repertoire and find new ways to engage students with potential career paths. Currently, they are considering a trek with undergraduate consulting students and working with the University of Michigan Career Center and Opportunity Hub to explore additional opportunities for cross-campus collaboration.

“At the end of the day, we are looking to make sure this is a good experience for the students and the companies,” said Bradley-Kern. “The treks aren’t going anywhere. They are a part of the recruiting journey that our students are going on, and we want to support them as best we can.”

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