Anyone in career services knows that event programming is both an art and a science, calling on one’s ability to explore, plan, improvise, reflect, analyze, and persevere. Enter Molly Bandimere, the Assistant Director of Events at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU). From an early age, Molly was enthralled by live performances and how they could captivate and influence an audience, which led her down a squiggly path from studying and performing theatre to coordinating weddings, commencement ceremonies, and ultimately career events at CU. Sharing these experiences while equipping students with the resources and skills they need to succeed empowers them to embrace not only their eventual career destination, but also the journey they’ll take to get there.
When she isn’t enjoying her favorite musicals and plays, Molly can be found strategizing new ways to engage students in career exploration, strengthening employer partnerships, or creating color-coded minute-by-minute schedules for each event her department produces (a method inspired by her late producer). Read on to find out how Molly and her events team are leveraging Handshake to support student success.
As an event expert, how does your role operate within career services?
My role as Assistant Director of Events is to develop an on-campus presence through employer engagement and initiatives. I lead our events team in developing a safe and organized schedule of in-person, virtual, and hybrid programming for students, alumni, employers, and campus partners, including career fairs, workshops, panels, and networking events.
What is an example of an impactful initiative you’ve implemented in your nearly 10 years at CU?
In the events world, credibility is anchored in hands-on experience and skills development, which is why I started the event internship team within our department about 10 years ago. Student interns can start working and supporting career events as early as their first year, and each of them completes the program having organized their own on-campus event from start to finish. Fun fact: The team is now managed by my amazing colleague Kate, who was once an event intern in this very program!
Additionally, our Skills 4 Success program manager is developing a program called “My Skills” to help students identify and articulate their various academic, extracurricular, and life skills; evaluate their proficiency in each; and compare that against job and industry reports to pinpoint what they could strengthen to become more competitive in their fields.
How does Handshake help make your team more successful?
Working with Handshake is exciting—it’s clear the team listens and works to gain perspective from career services staff, employers, and students alike to develop helpful tools. Since joining the network in 2015, Handshake has helped us streamline our event registration process, promote 150k+ job and internship opportunities to students and alumni, connect employers more directly with early talent, and, of course, continue supporting our community through unprecedented times. Operating virtually was a huge step for my team and allowed us to impact the community in ways we had not explored before—like co-hosting a virtual employer engagement event with 15 schools in the Rocky Mountain region at the start of the pandemic, for example.
Thank you to the amazing Handshake team (shoutout to Susanna, Alex, and other OG’s) for your willingness to grow, improve, and adapt not only the tool but also yourselves, to help foster better opportunities for our community.
We love to hear that. How do you translate this success into a compelling story that proves value to leadership?
Our office tracks every avenue of engagement for all hosted and co-hosted career programming, which helps us tell our story to stakeholders in a clear and effective way. We use data from Handshake—primarily unique student attendees and repeat engagement trends—to evaluate wins and opportunities for growth year over year. That being said, I’m a firm believer that attendance numbers are not always an indicator of event success, and I’m consistently guiding my team to evaluate the quantitative and qualitative components of our events, especially as we consider our division goals for BIPOC, transfer, and first-generation student populations. For example, we recently partnered on an event with the First Generation Programs and Enrichment Office where there were only about 30 students in attendance. Attendance is a component, but the light in students’ eyes and the value of the information they received can’t be measured with data.
What is one of your favorite events or programs that you or your team have implemented for students on your campus?
My personal favorite is the “Ultimate Game Show” from a few years ago, which included seven different events over the course of move-in week to welcome over 7,000 first-year and transfer students to campus. With the majority of our students coming from out of state, it’s important to introduce them to the wide array of community resources, partners, and services at their fingertips in Boulder. We asked students CU and career-related questions for a chance to win prizes like concert tickets, ski passes, a bike, and more donated by Google, Trader Joe's, Eldora Ski Resort, and other local businesses. Our staff really got into it (picture the emcee with a gold sequin blazer) and students loved playing fun, interactive, and educational games that got them connected to our office and their new CU community.
What are the biggest challenges your students face when it comes to professional development/career exploration?
I think first it’s deciding when to visit the career office, and then how to handle a job search—which employers are good to work for, what type of employment opportunities to explore, what to expect after graduation, etc. This is especially true for our first-generation, transfer, and BIPOC students, some of whom are navigating career engagement and opportunities in ways they haven’t seen modeled before. Our career team is always excited to help the Buff community face these challenges, and having a safe platform with vetted opportunities like Handshake is key to the process.
Do you have a favorite student success story?
There are many! One is of a student who attended our career fair last year, got hired by a company they connected with, and returned this year as a recruiter for them. Closest to my heart, though, have been updates from the event interns—some working professionally in the events industry and some not—who share how well they’re doing and that working with our team gave them building blocks to success. Generally, our office has THE most amazing student interns who help keep us aligned in planning and executing our programming and go above and beyond at every event. I am so very thankful for each current and past student team member who has made our office what it is today.