Launch Lab workshop

Katie Beach, the Roanoke Regional Partnership's program coordinator for talent solutions, leads Launch Lab participants through an interactive "work styles and teamwork" activity on Day 2 of the four-day event.

By Devon Mitchell '23

Roanoke College 'Launch Lab' prepares graduates for the working world

Roanoke College Career Services last month offered an opportunity for new Roanoke graduates to participate in the inaugural “Launch Lab,” a four-day intensive workshop series designed for recent graduates who are seeking employment.

On June 1-4, participating grads learned how to build their personal brand and how to expand their professional toolkit to better market themselves to employers. The four-day program featured 20 speakers, including alumni and community leaders from the Roanoke Valley. The speakers discussed various topics, such as personal branding, networking, professional development and the job market for young alumni.

Speakers included Kim Blair ’93, vice president of Resource Development at Roanoke College; Chris Turnbull ’00, senior director of Corporate Communications and Operational Continuity at Carilion Clinic; and April Woodward ’93, vice president of oncology at LewisGale Regional Health System.

“It was great to meet some of the next generation of Roanoke College graduates, and I was inspired to see how they want to impact the world around them,” said Turnbull. “I look forward to continuing to engage and connect with these graduates and many more for years to come. Their futures are bright.”

Graduates had an opportunity to network with alumni and community members at an event held at Hidden Valley Country Club, in partnership with the Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce. Several sessions were dedicated to business etiquette and proper business attire. One session focused on the job market for young graduates. Featured speakers included Devan Kessler ’11, human resource business partner at Yokohama Tire Corporation; Alexandra Martin ’16, vice president of business operations at Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs; and Stephanie Whitecross ’17, certified project manager at Carilion Clinic.

“Launch Lab prepared me to enter the workforce by giving me the confidence to know that it is OK to fail, but the important thing to understand is the way one responds to failing is what makes a person great.”

Edward Spencer '21, Launch Lab participant

Kessler, Martin, and Whitecross — each of whom earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at Roanoke — have spent their professional careers working with new and potential hires, experience that has given them perspective into the hiring process and what makes potential job candidates noticeable. The three gave tips to help students understand the impression that efforts such as writing a thank-you note and having the camera on during a Zoom interview can make on employers.

Career Services staff members Jonathan Lee ’95 and Amy Foster helped the new alumni rework their resumes and navigate their way through the job market. Workshops held throughout the week, and one-on-one mock interviews and meetings, gave participants a taste of the job application process and how to better present themselves as viable candidates.

One of the participants, Edward Spencer ’21, who graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, summed up his Launch Lab experience with this: “Launch Lab prepared me to enter the workforce by giving me the confidence to know that it is OK to fail, but the important thing to understand is the way one responds to failing is what makes a person great.”

Devon Mitchell ’23 is studying international relations and communications at Roanoke College. She has served as SGA vice president and as opinion editor for the Brackety-Ack, and is active with Model United Nations and the College’s chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national, co-educational fraternity.