Curious sophomores and collected seniors gathered in MacKenzie Great Hall. Small groups waited on fellow classmates while others walked in to find their seats for the presentation. After an opening prayer, the lights dimmed to show the illuminated projector screen at the front of the room where Keith Johnson, Director of Wetland Sciences, Inc., took the stage. “Don’t worry; there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “You can find a job in your field! I’m proof of that.”
Johnson, who spoke at PCC’s Science Forum about the conservation of endangered beach mice, was one of many professionals who gave presentations about their specialized fields. Every semester, students have the opportunity to attend many forums or seminars to listen to a focused presentation and ask the speaker about his or her career. Although presentations are catered to specific academic study, any students interested in the topics being discussed are welcome to attend.
“The forums expose students to professionals who are employed in our academic fields of study,” said Dr. Joel Porcher, Chair of the Engineering and Computer Science Department. “Students can interact briefly with these practitioners by asking questions after the presentation.”
During the College Commerce Association meeting, Michael Morette, president of Morette Company and general contractor for PCC’s Rice Tower, covered the importance of good leadership. After Michael left a profitable position at a previous company, his father started him at the bottom of Morette Company. “The biggest thing I learned from [starting over] was what leadership was about. [My dad] was smart enough to know that to train a future leader, you’ve got to break him down first. You’ve got to start from the bottom and earn the ranks. You can’t be given it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether we’re in accounting or marketing or in construction or sports management—it’s all a process.”
These presentations also allow for students to begin making connections in their fields of interest. Dr. Donna Marion, Dean of Professional Studies, expressed that desire for her students. “I would love for the students to develop networking opportunities with the speakers as well as learn what they can be doing even now while they are a student to prepare for their careers,” she said.
Katie Grudzinski (So., MN) attended the Education Seminar where Dr. Rick Enders explained how having a good parent-teacher relationship works to effectively teach and correct the student. “I took away a lot of good help, and I understand the parents better and how to become better partners [with the parent],” she said. “This will help me prepare myself for teaching later on in the future, and to understand and work on it now rather than later.”
Kevin Schopmeyer, M.D., a 1998 PCC graduate, spoke to pre-med students about some of the best ways to prepare for medical school, and explained how he transitioned from learning to working as a family doctor at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola. “At the heart of family medicine is caring for the individual person and the family,” Schopmeyer said. “The best positive word that I’ve used to describe it is altruistic—doing good for the sake of good.”
At the Criminal Justice Forum, Brandon Araujo (Sr., VA) heard former Secret Service agent Michael Goehring explain the requirements of working in the Secret Service. He also explained how being observant of the surroundings can allow anyone to live safely and help others. “I think [the forum] gave me a better understanding of what I should be working on now while I’m in college, not just specifically my studies, or certain things, but preparing myself mentally for being in a workforce where you have to be constantly vigilant and kind of just train myself to be more aware of what’s going on around me,” Brandon said. “He said that it is good to try to get some experience beforehand. I think that kind of helped me realize that I should be more content finding something a little smaller at first if it’ll help me get towards my goal in the end.”
The forums and seminars at PCC are tools to show students how vast their employment opportunities are after graduation, while also providing tips for achieving their own goals. Dr. Marion explains the importance of these presentations best. “[Students] are expanding their knowledge any time they hear a professional speak, whether they are interested in that particular career field or not,” Dr. Marion said. “If the students desire to be successful in their fields, they need to develop the mindset of continuously learning.”