Event seeks new ways to build creative connections between students, executives

Students from across Miami University participate

Students and executives talk at Connection Square
Students and executives talk at Connection Square Photo: Jay Murdock

Students from across Miami University participate

Imagine you're a college student in a room full of executives, but with no résumés to hand out, no ability to ask for a job or internship. While that might sound a little nightmarish to a student, Connection Square is aiming for loftier goals and outcomes for participants, both students and executives.

The event, held over two days in the East Commons of the Farmer School of Business, is designed to connect top students from across Miami University with executives from companies big and small to explore innovation and creativity.

“The goal was to take Career Fair and turn it on its side,” co-organizer and junior marketing major Kelsey Haus explained. “Often, students spend most of their time in lines, and there’s no connections being made. We’re hoping to change it so that students and professionals aren’t looking for a job or an internship, but making networking and mentorship connections.”

Haus said that she and the other organizers, Lizzie LuhBrett Schaaf, and Ryan Sarverasked professors from Miami’s five colleges to recommend their top students -- those who went above and beyond inside and outside the classroom, were highly motivated to grow, and were looking to apply creativity to their personal and professional lives. 

At the event, 50 students met individually with an executive for 12 minutes before switching to another executive, allowing them to meet four during a one-hour block. The students and executives exchanged contact information, but otherwise were free to converse on any topic they choose.

“I thought it was an awesome experience to connect with professionals with really diverse backgrounds and share a bit about their creative aspects, rather than focus on skills or business background,” senior mechanical engineering major Brent Reichert said. “Creativity is kind of my passion, so learning about people who have taken whatever background they had and pursued something more creative is really interesting.”

“This is definitely the coolest networking event I’ve been a part of. It’s refreshing to not have to answer the same old questions that I have to ask at every other networking event,” Christian Jaekle of Barefoot Proximity pointed out. “Everyone is super smart and seems really interested in being here. I don’t feel like I’m drawing answers out of anybody because they’re interested and engaged, which makes it easier for me.”

“Rather than worrying about résumés, internships, or talking points, the structure of the Connection Square actually allowed us to get to know professionals, and vice versa, without the pressure normally associated with a networking event,” senior English literature major Katie Pauly said. “Conversations were easy, comfortable, and enjoyable.”

“It’s the personalization, meeting people where they are versus a transactional nature,” Karen Ball, director of development at Prosci, explained. “Asking questions that are more based on foundations of common thinking or new thinking, understanding, getting into the relational aspects.”

Haus said organizers hope that the event can be expanded in the future to take place at Career Fair and Spring ICE, because her time at the Farmer School has taught her that getting into a career isn’t always about skills and training. “I realize that a lot of your future has to do with your connections,” she noted. “You need to have that network to back you, to help your personal career, but also help your personal growth and professional skills. Having a mentorship, having people that really care about you and your career makes a difference.”

See more photos from the event on our Facebook page