Annual Taubman College Career Fair Goes Virtual

The COVID-19 pandemic gave a different look to the 2020 Taubman College Career Fair, but the end result was the same: connecting talented students with top employers looking for future interns and full-time hires.

The annual Career Fair was held on March 17, just days after the University of Michigan suspended in-person classes for the remainder of the winter semester as a response to the pandemic. As a result, organizers moved quickly to reimagine the event online.

“Career Fair is vitally important to our students and to employers,” said Lou Ecken-Kidd, director of career and professional development. “Of course we would have loved our traditional format of meeting in person in Ann Arbor. But since that wasn’t possible this year, we wanted to ensure that they could still find ways to meet each other, even in the midst of so much uncertainty.” She noted that approximately half of the students who responded to the post-fair survey said that they would like to have future fairs with a combination of onsite and virtual options.

Through a series of online channels, employers from across the United States were able to review students’ portfolios and then hold video chat sessions with them. The format “allowed for an open, rolling conversation with anywhere from one to five students at any given time,” said Josh Keough, B.S. ’97, M.Arch ’99, an associate and project manager at Gensler. “Although we always love coming to Ann Arbor for the in-person fair, the virtual fair offered a more natural group conversation. And of course, it was the same excellent pool of candidates that we’ve come to expect from Taubman College.” 

Students also appreciated the opportunity to continue with the fair in an online format. “It was a valuable experience in networking, informational interviews, and virtual communication,” said Janney Lockman, a second-year urban and regional planning student. “I’m so impressed by how nimble the college was in such an uncertain situation.”

Taubman College graduates develop the skills to lead in careers with employers across the U.S. and abroad in part due to the college’s Career and Professional Development team, which provides programming, support, and resources for career growth and advancement. Career professionals share industry expertise with students and alumni as they explore career options, develop networking and job search skills, and strategize for long-term career success.

“We are one of a very few architecture schools with an embedded team of professionals intentionally developing programming, services, and resources to assist students in exploring relevant career paths, as well as securing internships and full-time positions at the most sought-after firms in the U.S. and abroad,” said Ecken Kidd.

Taubman College graduates are part of a worldwide network of more than 500,000 University of Michigan alumni who are leaders in business, government, the nonprofit sector, and more, including nearly 11,000 living Taubman College alumni working in every state across the country, as well as in 75 countries. Many, like Keough, are actively involved in recruiting students at events like Career Fair. “You’re a tremendous group of individuals that we, as a profession, are looking forward to seeing alongside us in our studios,” Keough wrote to students after the fair. “Things are obviously tough right now, but they will get better. Keep pushing. Keep reaching out to us and don’t stop.”

Hiring professionals from around the country ranked the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning among the top schools from which they hire the greatest number of graduates, according to the 2019 DesignIntelligence’s annual America’s Top Ranked Architecture & Design Schools survey. In the most recent survey, 98 percent of recent graduates from Taubman’s Master of Architecture (M.Arch) program were employed within one year of graduation or continuing their education (95 percent employed, 3 percent continuing education), in addition to 100 percent of Master of Science graduates (93 percent employed, 7 percent continuing education), and 100 percent of recent graduates from the Master of Urban Design program (100 percent employed). Taubman College graduates hold leadership positions at top firms such as Gensler; Perkins + Will; Jacobs; HDR; AECOM; HOK; HKS; Stantec; IBI Group; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM); and elsewhere.