New Kensington event to ‘launch’ students' professional development

Campus-exclusive event brings networking, 40+ alumni to Pittsburgh
Female student speaks to another student

Rachel Holder speaks with another student during a practice professional networking session. The activity was part of the 2019 Leader Launch conference organized by Penn State New Kensington's Office of Career Services. The 2020 event is scheduled for Feb. 8, and tickets are available for students and recent alumni at the campus' Academic and Career Success Center.

Credit: Rebecca Dietrich

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Current Penn State New Kensington students and recent graduates will have the opportunity to meet more than 40 Penn State alumni, including former international students, at Leader Launch, a campus-exclusive professional development conference on Feb. 7.

"Every student is going to find one-on-one opportunities to interact with someone who is doing what they might want to do.”

-- Jim Shields, associate director of career services

According to Jim Shields, associate director of career services at the campus, many students he advises are consistently seeking opportunities to speak with those who can offer advice about their majors and job outlook.

Shields said some of the most common statements made by students include, “I wish I could talk to somebody about what my possibilities are; I wish I could talk to somebody who was in my major about what they’re doing now.”

The upcoming, conference-style event aims to offer helpful workshops, as well as the chance to network. It is also part of an initiative of campus Chancellor Kevin Snider, Shields and other faculty and staff members working to increase the exposure of professional experiences and workplace etiquette preparation for students so they can strengthen skills such as communication, collaboration, adaptability and creative thinking, which can be used now and in their future careers.   

“[They] will have multiple opportunities to hear from professional people in their fields and interact with alumni who graduated from Penn State and our campus,” said Shields, who also organizes the event. “It’s all about students having the opportunity to make connections face-to-face. Even though we are in such an electronically-connected society where people are in communication all the time, when it comes to shaking hands, meeting people and introducing yourself, those opportunities are becoming increasingly rare.”

Leader Launch will begin with an on-campus luncheon, before students depart by bus for the Penn State Center Pittsburgh. The conference-style event will include a combination of presentations and interactive “break-out sessions” so that students can practice their in-person networking skills, learn about job opportunities and internships, and make contact with alumni and representatives from employers in the Pittsburgh area. Also, for the first time in its seven-year history, international alumni, representing global advancements for students, will be in attendance. Following the sessions, participants will be transported to the TRYP Hotel in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of the city to further network and interact with alumni and guests during a formal dinner setting.

“Everybody is there to help the students,” mentioned Shields. “I’ve been really excited about the response from both students and alumni. Every student is going to find one-on-one opportunities to interact with someone who is doing what they might want to do.”

Tickets for Leader Launch are available and include all meals and transportation to and from the city. Students can find out more information about the event at and purchase tickets in the campus’ Academic and Career Success Center.

Anthony Palyszeski, a communications student at Penn State New Kensington, contributed to this story.