Caption: Gigi Lopatriello of MiraCosta College and other students at the 35th Annual Student Career Days work on their drawings during an exterior design workshop.
JOLIET, Ill. – College students from 60 schools throughout the United States and Canada converged on Joliet Junior College last week to learn, network and compete against each other in industry-related events.
PLANET’s 35th Annual Student Career Days was held from March 17-20 in the Chicago suburb and attracted 1,250 attendees, 875 of which were students, according to PLANET.
The event started with a day full of learning from industry experts. The workshops and seminars covered everything from leadership lessons and repairing small engines to irrigation installation and landscape design.
Day two started with an opening ceremony, which included a roll call where each school stood up and chanted to show school pride. For audience engagement and creativity during the roll call, the spirit award and winner of $1,000 from John Deere was Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, which only had three students in attendance.
Garret Van Santen, a student from the Canadian school, said attending the PLANET event opens up connections and opportunities for students.
Fellow Niagara Parks student Leslie van de Ven said Student Career Days is great for students, especially from small schools, to interact and see what students from other larger horticulture programs like Penn State University (which brought 40 students) are doing.
Student Career Days also included a career fair, which brought the largest manufacturers, suppliers and landscaping businesses in the industry to interview students and offer internships and jobs.
Paul Hutcheson, a senior at Virginia Tech, is in the process of opening his own garden center. He said he found the career fair helpful because he was able to network and make three or four industry connections he could see turning into business or mentoring relationships.
“Even though I’m not looking for a job, I enjoyed the career fair,” he said.
Attending his first Student Career Days, Hutcheson said he was looking forward to the competitive aspect of the event.
“I like competing in different events that aren’t purely competitive, but have an atmosphere of teamwork and learning,” he said.
The competitions, which are based off of information learned on day one, allow students and, ultimately schools, to go head to head. The overall winner with the most points scored was Brigham Young University – Provo. (See top 10 list below.)
A final highlight of Student Career Days was a keynote presentation by Judy Guido, chairwoman and founder of Guido & Associates. Her message: personal branding.
A personal brand is two things, Guido said. One, it is name awareness: How many people know who you are? And second, it’s reputation: What do others think about you?
Creating a strong personal brand is important in today’s world as a way to stick out in the marketplace, she said. Also, more and more, hiring managers are searching the Internet and social media sites for a better understanding of someone’s background and, essentially, personal brand.
“Life is not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself,” Guido said.
The 36th Annual Student Career Days will be held at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., March 21-25, 2012.
Overall Results By School:
1. BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY - PROVO
2. MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
3. BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY - IDAHO
4. CHATTAHOOCHEE TECHNICAL COLLEGE
5. UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
6. PENN STATE
7. VIRGINIA TECH
8. COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
9. COLUMBUS STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
10. MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY
Overall Results By Student:
1. KEVIN WHITAKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
2. ALEX CASILLAS, CAL POLY - POMONA
3. DALLAS GUSTAFSON, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
4. HUMZAH KHRAIM, CHATTAHOOCHEE TECHNICAL COLLEGE
5. ANDY KLITTICH, CAL POLY - SAN LUIS OBISPO
6. LAURENCE CLAIBORNE, FARMINGDALE STATE COLLEGE
7. JEFF HILLMAN, CAL POLY - SAN LUIS OBISPO
8. MORGAN CASTELLOW, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
9. NATHAN BYNUM, HINDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE
10. ROBERT LEVAR, ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY