On July 8, 2020, more than 300 career services professionals came together from across the nation to learn and share best practices at the Hire Big10+ Allerton Conference organized by the Rutgers Office of Career Exploration and Success (CES). In 2018, the consortium of 17 universities selected Rutgers University-New Brunswick as the host location of the annual event. Originally intended as a three-day, in-person conference, the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic required a pivot to a one-day virtual Zoom experience.
In place of the traditional breakout sessions where one person presents to a group, attendees participated in facilitated conversations with each other, sharing ideas and learning about new approaches to connecting students with opportunities. "COVID-19 and the social justice movement to end systematic racism have ultimately forced our attendees to think about each discussion topic through the lens of these pressing issues," said William Jones, senior director at CES and conference chair. "I encouraged these conversations in my welcoming remarks, but I hope they continue post-Allerton." The immersive virtual experience included 17 breakout discussion options throughout the day ranging from new ways of engaging students to increasing intentional employer development efforts.
Allerton included "Break Activities" to allow participants an opportunity to recharge during the 7-hour event. A lunch hour presentation from Johnson & Johnson, a major recruiting partner for Rutgers, provided an opportunity for attendees to learn about their recruiting efforts and answer questions from an employer's point of view. The conference concluded with speed presentations from each institution highlighting COVID-19 responses, ways to build campus career ecosystems, and new student methods of engaging students.
The Allerton Conference has a rich history within the career services community. It began many years ago as a summer meeting of career center directors from across the Big 10 at the Allerton Park & Retreat Center in Illinois. Over time, the conference became more inclusive, inviting all career services professionals, and began rotating locations between member institutions. The event maintains the "Allerton" name in honor of its origin.