New High-Tech Digs

Videoconferencing, live lecture capture, and a technology lab are just some of the features of the career resource center unveiled during a block party celebration.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 23, 2014) — When the University of Miami’s Patricia and Harold Toppel Career Center assembled students to participate in a videoconference on the White House Internship Program last year, it wasn’t able to tap into the live feed from its headquarters on Stanford Circle because it lacked the technology to do so, relying on the facilities at the School of Communication instead.

Now, live videoconferencing, along with a few other automated amenities, is a staple at Toppel. With new digs featuring a Career Technology Lab where students use PCs and Macs to write resumes and cover letters, and interview suites with ceiling-mounted miniature cameras that record job interviews, the Toppel Career Center has turned into a high-tech resource for students and alumni hoping to find jobs or launch new careers.

“It’s a tremendous upgrade,” said executive director Christian Garcia, noting that the center’s new home—a two-story, 12,000-square-foot building on Ponce de Leon Boulevard—is twice the size of its previous facility. “We’re extremely proud of that, especially considering that, nationally, the average career center is just over 2,000 square feet. And what that size allows us to do is provide more programs that can run concurrently. In our old building we had one big space where we’d have our presentations. But if two companies wanted to come or if we wanted to conduct a workshop and an information session with a firm, we couldn’t do it at the same time. Scheduling was always an issue.”

UM students, faculty, and staff got a firsthand look at the new Toppel on Wednesday when the resource center hosted a three-hour block party, opening its doors for tours, free giveaways, music, and food. The new building is made possible by a generous lead gift from UM alumna and longtime trustee Patricia Toppel, as well as support from the Parents’ Council.

“Incredible,” said Suzanne Aldahan, a senior majoring in international studies, as she looked around the center’s Career Loft, where an IBM information session has already been held and more company presentations are scheduled.

Already accepted to UM’s School of Law, Aldahan said she plans to make extensive use of the Toppel Center’s resume-critiquing services and interview suites. She once did an interview via Skype from her dorm room and is now excited about the modern look of Toppel’s new interview suites. “It’s definitely not cool when you have a bed showing in the background during a Skype interview,” she said.

“Pretty cool” is how freshman Nadijah Campbell, a journalism major from Philadelphia, described the technology lab.

Daniel Rosenberg, a biomedical engineering major from Boca Raton, used Toppel’s services often before the center moved into its new space, securing several job offers. But he is still seeking better opportunities and plans to use the center’s mock interview recording sessions to fine-tune his interviewing techniques. Toppel will provide Rosenberg and other students with an email link to their recorded interviews and a list of recommendations on how they can ramp up their interviewing skills.

Technology such as that, said Garcia, is embedded throughout the building. With “Live Lecture Capturing,” the center will videotape company presentations and stream them to its website, allowing students who couldn’t attend the live sessions to watch them at a later time. “We didn’t want time or geography to be a deterrent to students or alumni using Toppel,” said Garcia.

Coming down the pike, a videoconference of Peace Corps volunteers stationed in different countries. And a brick campaign targeting alumni and ’Cane employers continues, with supporters invited to become a part of the center’s history by donating an engraved brick to the Career Reflections Courtyard.

During Wednesday’s block party festivities, UM alumna Sarah Raccuglia sat at a desk with graduate assistant Koi James to get her resume tweaked. Alumni can use the center for life, paying only a nominal fee for certain services. “Ever since I’ve graduated, I’ve done everything from a dolphin research internship in the [Florida] Keys to working in my dad’s drywall business,” said Raccuglia, who graduated from UM in December 2012 with a degree in psychology. “Now, I want a job that combines many of my skills. I read a statistic that students are more successful in finding jobs when they use the Toppel Center. Sounds like I’m in the right place.”

Robert C. Jones Jr. can be reached at 305-284-1615.


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