Rollins alumni with ties to the Black Student Union are providing support to the next generation of talent as they enter one of the toughest job markets in modern history.
Marcus Davis ’20 ’21MBA worked closely with Gerald Ladner ’81 to identify potential career fields and develop an in-depth job search plan. Photo by Scott Cook.
If the job search process is a contact sport that requires fierce competitors, then Rollins trustee Gerald Ladner ’81 is the no-nonsense head coach leading his players to victory—dishing out a little self-described “tough love” along the way.
This summer, when the College launched its Share the Light campaign and Class of 2020 Jobs Challenge, Ladner created a game plan to support recent graduates who had been part of the Black Student Union (BSU) while at Rollins. With the help of fellow trustee Rod Adkins ’81, former senior vice president at IBM, they handpicked a dream team of seven alumni career coaches from executives and professors to corporate recruiting and human-resources experts, including Sindy Cassidy ’92 ’98MHR, T. Clinton Francis ’80, Sharon Frawley ’81, Theo McWhite ’83, Ciera Parks ’11, Quan Robinson ’11, and Joanne Terrell ’81.
One season in, Ladner and his staff are undefeated. Of their 18 BSU participants, 11 have found gainful employment and seven are in graduate school. Those pursuing a master’s continue to receive coaching and networking opportunities for internships and eventual full-time employment.
“We’re helping our graduates put the COVID-19 economy in context and embrace the grind of finding a job,” says Ladner, vice president of strategic agency partnerships and external affairs at State Auto Insurance. “Alumni have an important role, and this is one more way to serve the institution that has served so many, so well.”
With the help of Trustee Rod Adkins ’81, Carla Daza ’20 was selected for a prestigious summer internship at software giant Adobe. Photo by Zach Stovall.
The immediate impact of Ladner’s BSU effort can be seen in graduates like Carla Daza ’20. The computer science and math double major partnered with Adkins to pursue a GEM Fellowship, a prestigious program for underrepresented students interested in a graduate degree in a STEM field. In addition to providing funding for grad school, the program also includes up to two paid summer internships. Daza was selected to intern with software giant Adobe this summer.
“I had a team of Rollins alumni help me prepare for applications and interviews,” says Daza, who developed her passion for data and social good while at Rollins. “From resume feedback to LinkedIn tips to mock interviews, I gained lifelong mentors who taught me how to market my liberal arts education for the tech industry.”
Denise Daniels ’20 is also one step closer to pursuing her passions thanks to Sindy Cassidy ’92 ’98MHR, an executive coaching and leadership development professional who helped the communication major land an internship with the Orlando Solar Bears.
Not only has the BSU initiative helped Tars land their first jobs, but it has also come to the aid of grads like Frantz Timothee ’19, who was recently laid off from a large insurance company due to budget cuts. Seasoned recruiter Sharon Frawley ’81 utilized her extensive network of contacts in the insurance industry to help Timothee start a new role at Progressive.
“Both Sharon and Gerald really helped push me out of my comfort zone while giving me constructive criticism and rooting for me throughout the process,” he says. “They gave me back my confidence.
Ladner’s impression has been equally powerful on Marcus Davis ’20 ’21MBA as they’ve worked together to identify potential career fields, build Davis’ personal brand, and develop an in-depth job search plan.
“I’ve discovered the power of a mentor and a willingness to learn,” says the international business major whose sights are set on the C-suite. “Attitude determines altitude.”
Students like Elijah Noel ’20 have benefitted from Rollins’ Career Champions program, which connects Tars with accomplished alumni who share their personal and professional interests. Photo by Scott Cook.
Ladner’s BSU effort encompasses all four pillars of Rollins’ Share the Light campaign—jobs, internships, mentorship, and expertise—and plans call for aspects of his model to be scaled across other areas of the College. In addition, his entire coaching staff has signed on to serve as Career Champions with the Center of Career & Life Planning. Now that’s a win!
Gerald Ladner ’81 and his team of pros are using this six-step model to coach their Class of 2020 recruits to come out on top, encouraging other alumni to apply this method to the affinity group that means the most to them.
Develop a deep knowledge of each grad’s needs and career aspirations.
Assign primary and secondary coaches based on career focus and industries of interest.
Job Search Development Plan
Mentees list the top 50 companies in three industries of their choice, identifying Rollins alumni on LinkedIn.
Mentees contact targeted alumni, research job opportunities, and apply for at least 10 jobs a week.
Weekly to monthly check-ins include mock interviews, best practices, and the occasional “tough love” teaching moments.
This is the goal, but it’s not the end. Through the process, mentors and mentees will have forged bonds that can last a lifetime.