Students step in to provide support and professional development during pandemic

Posted on Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Development club members

Meet Astha Tiwari, a master’s student in Digital Transformation and Innovation. In addition to working full-time as a work-study student in Information Technology, Astha is the president of a student-led club, the Professional Development Club.

What is the purpose of the Professional Development Club?

It is a student-led club at the University, which originally started to help graduate students prepare themselves for the job market. We organize weekly workshops and sessions focused on things like time management, résumé-building, mock interviews, and facilitating opportunities to work in teams on practical projects related to industry clusters.

How has the club’s priorities changed in light of the COVID-19 situation?

As a student-led club, we have directed students to University and community resources. Our primary goal has shifted to focus on supporting students during this time, this has included organizing info-sessions to help students apply for emergency funds and directing them to resources such as legal help and mental health care.

I’ve personally seen the cases of students facing housing issues, job loss, and challenges with shared living spaces. We do what we can to find assistance for these students. Our collaboration with the International Office and Graduate Student Association has helped us develop a repository of resources that can help us guide other students facing similar situations.

It has been immensely satisfying to see students struggling from personal or professional hardships find solutions or relief based on support from the club.

What is the club doing to help with professional development during the COVID-19 situation?

We regularly organize sessions for providing timely reviews of résumés. This also includes highlighting the value of volunteer work in their professional domain.

One of our goals is to help students develop their professional skills and networks. We are reaching out to companies to identify opportunities for students to work on projects over the summer, as many students have lost co-op positions or internships. The Faculty of Graduate Studies has been a great support; their course, the Industry Internship Project links professors and industry partners (with work projects or assignments) to students

Providing networking opportunities helps students develop important skills for professional development. With social distancing it’s an even greater challenge. Building a network within the University and the corporate world is a challenge, but a great opportunity for our students.

We’ve also organized a peer group, led by recently graduated club executives, to engage alumni who are also looking for jobs or projects. Our goal is to establish a network, a place where students help students!

How has you work study placement with Information Technology guided your activities with the club.

Working with Information Technology has helped me develop an organizational perspective which helps me establish club activities. Developing strategies and observing IT projects being managed efficiently at the workplace has inspired me to advance initiatives and implement this knowledge for club activities. My work-study supervisor, MaryAnn Welke Lesage (Enterprise Architect), has been very encouraging and we have been collaborating on a project for students called ‘Next Wave: Future of Higher Education’. This project will enable students to conduct research in their field of expertise to design and evaluate the future of higher education after the pandemic.

Development club tables

More details about the club, the work they are doing, and the support they provide students can be found on the Professional Development club website.

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