Published November 19, 2020
It started as an innovative idea for helping students succeed in their career goals during a pandemic. A collaboration with UBIT made it a reality.
Career Services provides an essential service to UB students, helping them plan for a fulfilling career with in-person career coaching, practice interviews, job and internship fairs, and more.
Given the impact of COVID-19, helping students prepare for life after college is more important than ever — but it’s also more challenging. How could Career Services continue to deliver the level of personalized service that students at UB have come to expect and rely on?
Before the pandemic, Career Services had experimented with using technology to enhance its services, incorporating live chat into its website, offering artificial intelligence-assisted instant resume reviews and helping students connect to employers online through Bullseye powered by Handshake.
Now, with the pandemic bringing new health and safety guidelines into play, and many staff working remotely, the department had another idea: make it possible for Career Services’ staff to greet students who stop by their offices in Capen Hall and answer their questions, both virtually and in real time, using a large, interactive display. The system would allow the office’s services to continue to operate without sacrificing safety or its trademark personal touch.
Ken Stephens, client technologies technician for UBIT Customer Service, received an email in early July from Judith Applebaum, employer relations manager for Career Services and its department lead on technology integration, explaining the idea and asking what it would take to make it happen.
“They had all the technology they needed,” Stephens says, but needed guidance to set the system up and make sure it met the needs of the office.
For Stephens, the setup wouldn’t pose a challenge. “It essentially is similar to connecting a laptop to a TV or an external monitor,” he says, noting that the real challenge would be working on the project among the other demands and stresses of the COVID-19 work environment.
Nonetheless, it took just a few meetings with Career Services’ staff for the plan to come together. Stephens set up a recurring Zoom meeting that staff could join to greet students who stopped by the office, and the team set up a schedule to make sure someone would be available for students during regular business hours.
After the successful initial setup, Stephens continued to work with Career Services to help hone its vision, focusing on smaller details, such as making sure the cabling was hidden in order to ensure a more welcoming space for students.
“Ken was always a step ahead in the design of a seamless experience, not only for students but for the staff using the technology” says Jenna Smith, Career Services’ coordinator of assessment and marketing. “The entire process wasn’t possible without Ken’s quick and creative thinking.”
Smith notes that not only was Career Services able to maintain a personal connection to students, but in many ways strengthen that connection with the students, and with each other.
“This allowed our staff to empathize more with visitors,” Smith says, “and we learned we can work very well as a team to develop creative solutions using technology.”
“I absolutely love the way that this turned out,” Stephens says. “There is a feel to it that makes it as though you are taking part in a real in-person interaction. I’m glad I could be a part of it.”
Units on campus with an innovative idea for using UB technology to get things done in the age of COVID-19 can contact the UBIT Help Center.