Digital atrium setting with tv screens with various company logos indicating booths students could visit at the Gator Graduate Career Fair
vFairs helped Warrington's Business Career Services create this virtual lobby for the Gator Graduate Career Fair.

How Warrington’s Business Career Services transitioned career events online during the COVID-19 pandemic

In doing so, the team was able to connect 2,000+ students with more than 200 employers at all its virtual events.

The University of Florida Warrington College of Business has a longstanding culture of innovation when it comes to online education. From starting its Online MBA program in 1999 to expanding the college’s specialized master’s programs fully online in the past few years, Warrington understands how to provide an excellent online business education.

While the transition to online learning early in the COVID-19 pandemic was seamless thanks to Warrington’s online infrastructure and culture of distance learning, shifting online for another important Warrington service came with more challenges. For Warrington’s Business Career Services (BCS), the previous in-person events that allowed students and employers to connect suddenly needed to move to a digital environment.

Robin Gregory

Business Career Services Associate Director of Operations and Events Robin Gregory.

“The shift to planning virtual events required BCS to completely rebuild and restructure the timelines, outreach, planning and execution of all of our career events,” said Robin Gregory, Business Career Services Associate Director of Operations and Events.

Even with having to retool the way Business Career Services planned and executed its 9 events over the 2020-2021 academic year, Gregory and the BCS team put their years of experience in facilitating career connections to work, and in the end, hosted more than 2,000 students and 200-plus employers in all its virtual career events.

“Seamlessly transitioning in-person events to a virtual format is no easy feat,” said Gregory, who completed two virtual event management certifications in order to learn the best ways to transition events online. “Through the courses that I have had the pleasure of completing this past year, I have learned best practices from leaders in the events industry about how to transform in-person events into engaging and impactful online experiences. I adapted and redesigned a new structure and strategy for virtual event management. Additionally, I learned to troubleshoot and optimize technology to ensure success in the virtual space. I am so proud of what BCS has accomplished this year.”

In addition to learning new best practices for virtual events, Gregory and the BCS team were able to identify and secure new vendors to host Warrington’s virtual career events. In doing so, the team learned how to leverage new technology to permanently advance its event operations, Gregory said.

A few of the new technologies include Remo, a live, virtual event and networking space, which BCS used to facilitate the HIREWarrington Business Mixer during the spring Warrington Career Week, and vFairs, a virtual and hybrid events platform, which enabled online connection between employers and students at the fall Gator Graduate Career Fair and spring Warrington Just in Time Career Fair.

Thanks to the Remo and vFairs technologies, the HIREWarrington Business Mixer connected 188 students with 44 different employers and students made more than 3,400 visits to about 50 virtual company booths at the Gator Graduate Career Fair and the Warrington Just in Time Career Fair.

A layout of virtual tables lined up for a networking event.

Remo helped students connect virtually at the HIREWarrington Business Mixer.

In addition to new technologies, Gregory also relied on tried-and-true technologies to connect students and employers virtually. For Professional Development Day in the fall of 2020, students could watch speaker presentations via a YouTube livestream or hop on a Zoom call to connect with 37 different employers and listen to panel presentations. Overall, more than 600 students tuned in for the YouTube livestream and almost 700 students joined the two events held via Zoom.

For Master of Science in Information Systems and Operations Management student Edwin Ng Wong, despite having to miss out on Professional Development Day in person, the virtual event more than met his expectations.

“[Professional Development Day] was an amazing experience with an impressive amount of professionals that answered a lot of questions/doubts that we as students face, and motivated us to work for what we want and always keep learning,” he shared on LinkedIn. “Even though my first time at this event was through the ‘new normal’ of meetings (Zoom), they still managed to transmit me the energy of this event as if it was in person.”

The employers who attended the virtual Professional Development Day shared the students’ enthusiasm for still being able to connect despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“I’m honored to have had the opportunity to sit on the ‘Careers in Human Resources’ panel for the University of Florida Warrington College of Business Professional Development Day…,” said Michelle Scaglione, Senior Regional HR Manager at Wayfair, via LinkedIn. “It was exciting to see such a great student turnout! It made me especially proud to see #BusinessGators come eager to explore a career in HR and be prepared with insightful questions around how they can succeed during this recruiting season and in their professional careers.”

Looking back on the challenges brought on by the pandemic, Gregory is pleased with how the Business Career Services team was able to virtually accomplish what it sets out to do every day – help students prepare for their future careers.

“In all, our goals and objectives of providing opportunities for connection and ultimately placement were met despite the uphill climb,” Gregory said. “With the return of on-campus activities and the continued need for virtual access to career events, we remain committed to progressing and evolving to meet the needs of all Warrington students looking to secure their dream roles.”