Franchesca Simmons is proof that the path to finding your calling isn’t always a straight one. Equipped with a degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge (SUBR), Franchesca entered the world of work as a hospital relations representative, where she gained experience in educational training, medical contract writing, and negotiations for mental health facilities, medical hospital systems, and physician groups. Her success in that role led to her next exciting opportunity: training medical and business administration students at a community college. This fueled her passion for educating, empowering, and preparing the next generation of professionals—which isn’t entirely specific to college students, as Franchesca is certified in career technology for K-12 students!
Leveraging her experience in corporate America and education, Franchesca returned to SUBR in 2021 to serve as Program Coordinator for the Career Services Center and support their mission to "provide a student-focused teaching and learning environment that creates global leadership opportunities for a diverse student population.” Franchesca’s dedication to education is evident, whether that be through her own professional development, the way she supports her students, or her favorite quote: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” - John Dewey
Having been a student and now staff member at SUBR, what are the biggest challenges students face when it comes to professional development and career exploration?
The biggest challenge our students face is lack of confidence in knowing how to connect their current major with their future career. Our team consistently outlines plans for students to assist them on their journey and provides both direct and indirect support as they continue their professional development and career exploration.
For example, I had the esteemed pleasure of traveling to New Orleans with a group of our students for the HBCU Legacy Bowl Career Fair, where we experienced a few logistical challenges that could have gotten in our way. I reminded students that we are the mighty Jaguars—we will push through adversity until we win! Post-pep talk, we were able to readjust, stand tall, and indeed win. Several students secured paid internships on the spot, while others attended impactful panel discussions and gained essential information for their chosen careers.
How does Handshake help make your team more successful?
Handshake makes my team more successful by providing a one-stop shop for student and employer engagement, career-related communication, data analytics, and resources for continued success. One way I leverage the platform to support our efforts, for example, is by creating and sending weekly emails to promote internships, jobs, and scholarship opportunities specific to each major. Those emails also get shared with departmental leadership for visibility. The email creation feature on Handshake is phenomenal!
Career services teams are consistently under pressure to prove their value to institutional leadership. How are you utilizing Handshake to effectively provide leadership with an accurate and compelling view of programmatic success?
I am data-driven, so when I don't see the numbers I’d like to see, I ask the question, “Why aren't the numbers moving at the expected rate, and how can activity increase so that it will?” Handshake’s data analytics for staff appointments, first destination survey responses, and employer engagement greatly assist how we monitor and supplement activity where needed. We then take this data and consistently report it to our senior leadership. Beyond sharing analytics, we also have our leadership actively engage with career services staff and participate in student appointments to help alleviate pressure and provide insight into how important career services are to successful student outcomes.
What is one of your favorite events or programs that you or your team have implemented for students on your campus?
Career Week! Leading up to our fall and spring career fairs, we invite employers on campus to meet students, review resumes, provide interview tips, and encourage fair attendance. We also host a welcome reception where students and employers can network ahead of the big day. There are a lot of moving parts, but watching the events come to life makes me shake our blue and gold pom-poms with excitement!