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Due to scheduling difficulties, student leaders like ESC President Tim Qin, SEAS '13, pushed plans for a engineering career fair to next spring.

After plans for a student-run career fair this spring collapsed, four School of Engineering and Applied Science student organizations have shifted their focus to launching one for next spring.

In planning both spring career fairs, the Engineering Student Council, the Engineering Graduate Student Council, the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Graduate Society of Women Engineers sought to provide an alternative to the fall career fair hosted by the Center for Career Education.

"We were hoping that a career fair would open new alternatives for engineers, and that it would be a different take at career fairs," ESC President Tim Qin, SEAS '13, said. "I know CCE has a lot to do, and if we could help them help students find jobs, put in the manpower, then it's beneficial for everyone."

Qin and Andrew Tang, SEAS '16, met last fall with Courtney Murphy, director of employer and alumni relations, to discuss prospects for a career fair this spring. Murphy said that while she recognized the motivations behind students' desire for a spring career fair, she foresaw timing difficulties.

"It makes sense if students in the spring semester are most focused on internships, but that isn't necessarily always going to work for companies, because recruiting cycles aren't always in line with when students are thinking about job opportunities," Murphy said.

Qin and Tang changed course, working to plan an engineering showcase, which Murphy said would have been more manageable given budget and time constraints.

"For the center to reserve Lerner, the cost is so much greater than for students to reserve Lerner," Murphy said. Student support was thus important "because there's so much more access for students than there would be for us to put a fair on in that quick timeline," she said.

Soon after, SWE Secretary Caroline Shang, SEAS '13, approached Murphy with another proposition for a spring career fair. Murphy suggested Shang collaborate with Qin and Tang, and the three students joined forces. However, the group soon ran into issues that caused their plans to fall through.

"We were planning on meeting in November of last year, but due to Hurricane Sandy that kind of wrecked everything," Shang said. "We had to plan another meeting, as that time ... we couldn't put on a strong enough event. The details weren't ironed out enough for it to be successful."

Now, Shang has started to coordinate a career fair for next spring, and is seeking to book space on campus to ensure that the foundation of the fair is set far in advance. She said that she hopes the student-based structure of the program will signal strong student interest to invited companies.

"First of all, this event is planned for us, and so if it's student-led, we hope that it really runs for students [that] we have a better perspective of what students need—in that respect, we could hold a great event."

Murphy said that, in contrast to the CCE-run career fair in the fall, CCE's involvement in this student-run fair is up in the air, but that "we'd obviously love to work together on it."

Director of Undergraduate Career Development Niamh O'Brien said that the CCE would be available to share its experience with the engineering societies to ensure a high-quality career fair.

"I think the employer judges the experience, so if it's a good experience, then absolutely great, the students put this on, and that's where we'd love to share, logistically," she said.

O'Brien said that the prevalence of student-run conferences on campus enables CCE to disseminate its knowledge of career opportunities.

"There's lots of different professional associations, student clubs ... who have held conferences," O'Brien said. "We collaborate as much as we can with any group, because what we want to do is embed the knowledge here."

Pointing to the precedent of employer-student collaboration on campus, Shang said that she hopes to draw upon this infrastructure to benefit SEAS students.

"We have regional and national conferences—really good conferences that have really good career fairs with lots of companies," Shang said. "We can get these contacts and hopefully bring them to Columbia and show the quality of engineering students at Columbia."

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated an incomplete list of the groups involved in the career fairs. | @natalie_felsen

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