According to Kimberly Joy Dixon, director of Employer Relations and Diversity Recruitment at Stony Brook’s Career Center, it all started with small diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and investment banks. From there, it turned into something so much bigger.
“We started it because we . . . it originated with mostly investment banks coming to the Career Center, wanting to recruit under their umbrella of diversity, equity and inclusion. And at the time, there weren’t a whole lot of companies doing that work,” she recalled.
She piloted a program called the Diversity Professional Leadership Network (DPLN), which started with 11 Black and LatinX students, who she was able to partner with mentors in the workplace.
Now, 15 years later and between 80 and 100 participants per year, Dixon’s brainchild and a program she has worked hard to build is grander than she could have imagined it would be. In fact, the program is now a year-long for-credit bearing externship opportunity designed for traditionally underrepresented and underserved students focused on career development and preparation. She works alongside companies like Amazon, Northwell Health and PSEG Long Island to make sure that Stony Brook’s talent moves on from the campus community to a workplace community that values and embraces diversity.
One of the major pieces of this program is the mentor/mentee relationship. Dixon and her team match up students with workplace mentors that are able to help guide students into the next phase of their life — work. In the meantime, the Career Center works with the participants on their marketing toolkit (which includes a resume, cover letter, how to effectively search for jobs, etc.) as well as help them market themselves.
“In addition to the students having mentors, we provide them with career prep and professional development. All of our workshops and events are surrounded around that type of career prep work. And then our employer partners would also do leadership topics to help them learn how to increase their leadership skills, or how to utilize their skills,” she said.
And, the program takes students right up into the real world. Dixon explains that being part of the DPLN program enables students to do site visits so they can really take in all of what a company has to offer before they decide to choose a workplace or a certain career path. Even better, the Career Center makes sure that transportation costs are paid for to ensure they can get there with no financial burden.
“Our students are getting great opportunities. And it’s not always with our host companies, but they are better prepared than a student that’s not engaging with us like this,” noted Dixon. “Our alumni are doing very well out in the workplace. And many of them attribute their jumpstart being their experience and the connections they made through DPLN. We have mentors that are in contact with students after many, many years.”