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Industry pros’ informal talk adds to students’ formal education

Advice from industry partners led to the creation of the Human Services & Restorative Justice Coffee & Conversation series this past semester at Pennsylvania College of Technology, and plans are underway to continue the initiative in the fall. Hosting three speakers across three months of Spring 2022, the sessions provided candid conversations on hot topics impacting the HSJ field.

In the HSJ classroom, students and faculty listen to Alberti’s discussion on boundaries.
In the HSJ classroom, students and faculty listen to Alberti’s discussion on boundaries.

“The ‘birth’ of the HSJ Coffee & Conversation series resulted from our program’s Fall 2021 Advisory Committee. During the advisory meeting, we asked our industry partners what trends and/or deficit areas they are experiencing from their existing workforce so that we, as faculty, can work to preventively prepare our students in those specific areas,” explained Elizabeth E. Winder, assistant professor of human services.

Wilkerson considers the conversation.
Wilkerson considers the conversation.

“Through this conversation with our industry partners, the HSJ faculty learned two things: one, there is an increasing need for those in the field to better understand content areas such as boundary setting, trauma-informed care, and reentry services, and two, industry experts wanted to be the ones who discussed the topics with the students.”

The series was piloted to approximately 40 students enrolled in HSJ’s Bachelor of Science and Associate of Applied Science degrees and held in the program’s main classroom, located in the Hager Lifelong Education Center.

Cupcakes and coffee fuel connection.
Cupcakes and coffee fuel connection.

Seth Wilkerson, of Bloomsburg, enjoyed attending all three sessions. “I found each one to be a natural extension of the subject matter and discussions that I have had in my classes but in a more relaxed and conversational setting. I really liked the chance to expand my knowledge and insight on things such as healthy boundaries, foster and orphan care, and prison reentry services, just to name a few,” he said. “I hope this is a program that I will see returning next semester, and I hope to see more fellow students attending! Plus, the coffee and cookies are delicious!”

Cameron K. Ramsey, of Emporium, added, “The Coffee & Conversation series was a great opportunity to learn about different topics within our field of work and learn from members of the community. Learning about boundaries from the best, and diving into a topic such as trauma, is incredibly important for HSJ students to take with them in our future work.”

coffee & conversationProfessionals participating were: Michael Boughton, program director of The Geo Group Inc. at the Lycoming County Reentry Services Center, discussing reentry services; Sue Alberti, executive director of Clear Vision Residential, addressing boundaries; and Jennifer Lake, founder and director of Dwell Orphan Care, talking about trauma.

Lake shares personal and professional insights as Jillian T. Scanlon (left), instructor of human services/social science, listens.
Lake shares personal and professional insights as Jillian T. Scanlon (left), instructor of human services/social science, listens.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to connect and get the story out of how reentry services work and to provide possible job interest in the students that listened to the presentation,” Boughton said, adding, “I learned more about opportunities that Pennsylvania College of Technology has to offer to their students.”

While the series was initially intended to provide students with industry-driven information that is often difficult to incorporate in regularly scheduled classes, Winder said she is “most excited by the byproducts of this pilot,” including a ripple effect that has seen increased engagement from experts in the field.

“Industry partners, such as those in corrections and policing, are now reaching out to HSJ faculty to secure speaking spots for the Fall 2022 series implementation,” she explained. “They are not only looking to share their unique content knowledge but also see their participation in this series as a way to introduce students to internship and career opportunities within their fields.”

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