Graham, Estes Return to U of A to Direct Employer Relations for Two Colleges
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas has hired two new directors of employer relations – Donna Graham and Erica Estes – to increase the number of employers who provide job opportunities for U of A students and recent alumni.
Both Graham and Estes are U of A graduates and have worked successfully in both the academic world and in fields outside of campus. They both have strong insights into what public and private employers are seeking and what steps students can take toward assuring jobs soon after graduation.
"Our commitment to supporting our vision of becoming a Top 50 public research university is critically linked with our ability to collaborate with the colleges and academic departments," said Danny Pugh, vice provost for Student Affairs and dean of students. “These collaborative positions are critical to helping students find internships and employment.”
These two new positions and are modeled after the director of employer relations in the College of Engineering, which has been in place for more than 15 years, and currently held by Brian Henderson.
"These directors play a vital part in the recruitment of employers who will provide internship and job opportunities for our students,” Pugh said “While we have several in place, we desperately need additional resources to support the colleges where we do not yet have these positions."
Donna Graham is director of employer relations for the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. She is a graduate of Bumpers College and most recently she worked as an associate manager for Coach Stores, where she was responsible for driving store sales, analyzing data and evaluating options when making decisions. She was responsible for 13 percent of her store’s sales.
“Donna’s successful experience in converting occasional customers into loyal, frequent Coach customers, makes her ideal for this position,” said Angela Williams, director of the University Career Development Center.
Graham will use a variety of professional strategies to increase employment opportunities for Bumpers College students and recent alumni. She sees her understanding of Bumpers College, the university and the state as invaluable assets in the position.
“Arkansas is a unique state filled with employers that perfectly align with the Bumpers College curriculum. As an alumna, I know former classmates employed across the state. We are fortunate to have so many opportunities with the state, and these relationships are crucial to nurture. However, in today’s global economy, it is worthwhile to reach further. I would like to put the Bumpers College on the national and global map as a place where open, organized communication, and potential talent for employers can be found.”
Lona Robertson, associate dean of Bumpers College, said, “Donna is a great addition to the Bumpers College leadership team. Donna is going to be familiarizing herself with all of our programs, meeting with potential employers and exploring internship, job shadowing and career placement opportunities for all of our students.”
Graham completed her bachelor’s degree in 2008 and her Masters in Human Environmental Sciences in 2011, both at the University of Arkansas.
Erica Estes is director of employer relations for the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. Previously, Estes held two other positions with the university’s Career Development Center - first as Fulbright College’s career counselor and most recently as associate director of career education. She hopes to continue her work by advocating for Fulbright students to recognize the vast potential their degrees afford them.
“Because many Fulbright majors and graduate programs are not vocational in nature, it is vital to help employers recognize the endless possibilities that can come from hiring our students who are prepared to analyze, communicate, research, plan and lead in a variety of work contexts and environments,” Estes said.
In her previous role with the university, she supervised and trained career counselors and graduate assistants, coordinated the center’s signature program, the Professional Development Institute, and collaborated with various university departments and colleges.
“She’s a perfect fit for this role,” Williams said. “She already has excellent relationships with Fulbright faculty and staff. She is very knowledgeable of all Fulbright majors and can promote and articulate to employers the value of Fulbright students’ skills. In addition, she understands and knows what employers need from students, and she has significant experience preparing students for the world of work.”
Estes has a five-year plan going into the new position, which focuses on a different industry, and/or discipline each year, beginning with science and math.
Todd Shields, interim dean of Fulbright College, said he expects Estes’ career expertise to benefit Fulbright students: “Fulbright College’s outstanding students give us the opportunity to showcase their talents to employers in the state, the nation and the world. Erica will help our students begin their careers while building new relationships with businesses and organizations.”
Estes completed her bachelor of arts in psychology in 1997 and her master of arts in sociology in 1999. She worked in Baltimore, Md., in the domestic violence prevention and foster care fields from counseling, to training, to program coordination before returning to the university in 2007.
Both Graham and Estes started in their new positions at the beginning of the fall academic semester.
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