Lighthouse enters new era for new year

Featured Image: Working Wednesdays guests join Lighthouse event. Carley Tantlinger | Marlin Chronicle

Virginia Wesleyan’s Lighthouse, located in Clarke Hall, is a vibrant environment for career development and international opportunities. It hosts events for students that offer connections within the workforce and resources for entering the workforce. 

In addition, the Lighthouse deals with the inclusion of  international students and the processes for study abroad trips within and outside the U.S.

Virginia Wesleyan University’s Lighthouse hosts a recurring Working Wednesdays event for students to get first-hand information from a panel of employers. The event has a goal of connecting the student community with potential companies for recruitment and job opportunities. 

On Feb. 1, a panel of employers spoke about necessary skills and available opportunities for students seeking jobs. 

“Know who you can work with and who you can’t; it’s really important to be comfortable to give your best… Also, to land the job, it’s really important to do your homework and research the company, its history and mission to show your interest to recruiters,” Director of Human Resources for the Norfolk Botanical Gardens Amanda Wells said. 

Working Wednesdays is one of several activities the Career Development Program (CDP) of the Lighthouse will host this semester as career exploration opportunities for students. The CDP shares the Lighthouse space with its other sub-departments: Global Engagement and Wesleyan Engaged.

Alice Jones, Director of Career Development, explained that the main mission of the office is creating an environment for students to be visible to employers and discover a range of career options. 

“My intention is to be a resource for students that they can use to help them get from point A to point B in terms of job interviews and positions, and I guess it’s all about the transition and being ready,” Jones said. She said the office “thinks ahead about how students will succeed after graduation.” 

Through instructional workshops, job and internship search assistance, career fairs, graduate and professional school preparation and online tools and resources, the CDP aims to assist VWU students to discover their academic and professional goals. The program offers an array of resources, one-on-one career coaching sessions and customized programming to facilitate career development. 

Guests discuss workplace environments and opportunities. Carley Tantlinger | Marlin Chronicle

Although the office provides many benefits to students, it faces significant challenges.

“Awareness is a big challenge, students don’t know about the office and how it can contribute to their professional involvement, and that makes it hard for us to communicate our services and opportunities to the community,” Jones said.

The challenge is mainly about finding that balance of interacting in person and interacting online. Transitioning between the two requires retraining people to communicate face-to-face again and explore all the opportunities that are available.

Another office that resides under the umbrella of The Lighthouse is the Global Engagement Office led by Director Mandy Reinig. 

“[The] Global Engagement Office works with international students through supporting them with their big immigration piece and making sure they maintain their status, but also supporting them to achieve academic success and integrate into not only the campus culture, but into American culture,” Reinig said. 

The office works on both bringing foreign students to VWU’s campus and orchestrating study abroad opportunities for all students. 

“The goal is getting students to not only go on those things, but at least consider them. That is the best way to get cultural integration and language learning,” Reinig said. 

As for the challenges of participation, finances and possible valuable experiences concern students the most when debating if they should study abroad or not.

Along with its career and study away opportunities, the Wesleyan Engaged office of the Lighthouse focuses on serving the community.

“Wesleyan Engaged has a twofold aspect; it has both service learning/volunteering and civic engagement. I think both of them go towards the greater goal of getting to know who our community is, how we can help them, and how we can become better in tune with the community outside of VWU,” Director of Wesleyan Engaged Bethany Tsiaras said regarding the office’s mission statement. 

Wesleyan Engaged provides continual service learning opportunities including Marlins Read, a student-led, one-on-one mentoring program aimed toward helping elementary age students reach their literary proficiencies, Oyster Bagging with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and social events at the Gardens of Virginia Beach Retirement home such as Cookie Decorating on Feb. 22. Other activities include Emergency Meal Kit Packing and Emergency Food Packing in partnership with the non-profit, humanitarian organization Operation Blessing. 

The office’s civic engagement component relates to voter engagement, LGBTQ+ identities and awareness training.

Similar to Career Development, Wesleyan Engaged has their own share of hurdles.

“The biggest obstacle is getting students to participate, not necessarily because they don’t want to, but because I’m learning how to connect with them. I’m learning the ways in which students now are actually getting their information,” Tsiaras said. 

Communication with students remains a prominent challenge that not only delays the work process, but also the advantages that could be brought to the community. 

“I really want students to feel comfortable coming to me about their ideas, because, yes, I offer the things that I offer, but really, I just want to offer what the students want,” Tsiaras said.

By Houda Touchen