The first Connect at Creighton conference to connect Omaha-area students of color with alumni of color was on Feb. 21 in the Mike & Josie Harper Center.
Senior Arts and Sciences student Lauren Williams, who is the founder and director of the conference, brought the idea to Christopher Whitt, the vice provost for institutional diversity and inclusion, last year. His office and other organizations on campus helped guide the students throughout the planning process.
“What I wanted students to get out of it was to find alumni that are possibly in their industry that they can network and communicate with because sometimes it’s hard to find faculty of color and professionals of color in the Omaha area,” Williams said.
The day-long conference began with a Nonprofits with a Purpose panel and was followed by a networking activity in the Ahmanson Ballroom between students, faculty and alumni.
Students from throughout the metro area attended the conference, including students from University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Shannon Melton, director of signature programs in University Relations and a former Creighton graduate herself, reached out to alumni, inviting them to the event via email and social media. She contacted people based on the population the student committee wanted represented at the conference: Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, African American and Native American alumni.
“As an alumni that is part of the minority here on campus, I think it is very important that we continue to reach out to the students who are attending currently because our experience is very specific,” Melton said. “I think it is important as alumni to support their experience.”
The networking session was followed by lunch and a keynote presentation from Richard Webb, CEO of 100 Black Men Omaha, titled “How to Build Your Vision from the Ground Up.”
In the afternoon, students could attend various breakout sessions addressing topics of interest to students of color, including how to address microaggressions in the workplace, how to land an internship, how to transition from college to the workforce and a discussion of career paths in the health sciences.
College of Arts and Sciences senior James Nguyen was one of the student panelists for the “How to Land an Internship” session, which was led by John P. Fahey Career Center Director Jeremy Fisher.
“It helps connect people, professionals and students and give tips and advice on how to build a professional career after [graduation],” Nguyen said.
The conference ended with a Young Leaders of Omaha panel and a final networking reception. The young leaders panel was made of Creighton alumni of color who are professionals in the Omaha community.
Williams said she hopes the conference will help students find community and reassure them of their place in their selected field.
“Putting people in front of them who look like them, who have made it in their field, who are settling in to their roles – that is really essential, and it is affirming to see that and for minority students to connect with them,” Williams said.
Whitt said that he hopes students use the event to network and find opportunities and confidence to elevate their academic and professional careers.
“Many times, students who are from underrepresented groups may feel marginalized or they may feel overlooked,” Whitt said. “This is a way for us at Creighton and in the Omaha community to really let these students know that they are seen.”
“I would hope that the students also recognize the power that can be found in communities of color,” Whitt said.