The Charles F. Dolan School of Business faced an overwhelming turnout at its annual Dolan Career Night on Oct. 20. Hosted in the Dolan Event Hall, this networking event allowed Fairfield University business students to meet with eight members of the Dolan Advisory Board and four industry professionals to receive career advice and discuss career strategies.

Fairfield alumni represented a vast range of companies including ESPN, Webster Bank, J.P. Morgan Private Bank and JetBlue.

John Hottinger, the associate director of the Dolan Career Development Center, shared that “The emphasis in this program is to create an engaging interchange with students.”

As student guests entered the room, preliminary mingling and networking opportunities sprouted within individual groups.

Students were soon invited to sit at any of the 12 tables set up on the left side of the event hall. A short presentation preceded the event’s main attraction: a rotation of featured representatives to two tables each, followed by a spontaneous networking conversation.

With many representatives being Fairfield alumni themselves, there was a very profound element of connection and understanding which embraced the environment. Many speakers recognized the familiar feeling of being in a Fairfield University student’s shoes and used that understanding to establish more thoughtful dialogue within groups.

As a retired pharmaceutical employee for both Pfizer and Zoetis, Michael Bentivenga ‘82’s continuing respect for Fairfield University ultimately drove him to the event.

“I’m on the Dolan Advisory Board, and when I found out there was a session with students, I wanted to be there to help them navigate,” Bentivenga said. “Fairfield helped me with a lot, and I wanted to give back.”

A total of 131 students attended the career night. This unpredicted influx created a sure wedge in the premeditated seating arrangement, requiring a supplementary line of chairs against the back wall: a clear indicator of the event’s attraction and legitimacy.

Lauren Garvey, a senior marketing and management major, declared her participation in the event stemmed from her eagerness to grasp professional employment.

“I am entering the job force soon and trying to get my name out there, I want to put my foot in the door,” Garvey said.

Sophomore Athena Ramos shared a similar reason for attending the event.

As a sophomore business major, now’s a crucial year to start thinking about my career and network,” she said. “When I saw the invitation, I thought it would be a great way to talk to professionals in their field and ask about their path.”

The dynamic of group discussion varied from representative to representative. While some took ten minutes to speak on their own experiences and provide personal insight, others allowed student-led questions to dictate the discussion. 

Colleen Tycz ‘04 was present to represent Franklin Templeton as their senior vice president of Retirement and Insurance Strategic Accounts. Like her fellow representatives, Tycz wanted students at the event to find a career path that is fit for them.

“I hope [students] learned skills on networking and exploring what motivates their authentic self,” she explained.

Before organized networking began, Hottinger introduced the night’s keynote speaker, Nikolas Totaro ‘04, the managing director at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. A bulk of Totaro’s speech concerned the necessity of college friendships. In tangent with this point, he emphasized the importance of establishing friendships with meaningful connections and networking potential.

“You don’t realize the talent of the people you’re surrounded by,” Totaro stated. “What’s important about those friendships is that we challenge and motivate each other.” 

Totaro partnered his address on collegiate relationships with the value of independence. Particularly, he advised students away from the jealousy of others and towards focusing on the self in order to achieve professional success.

Themes of challenge, motivation and individual boldness were all prime facets of discussion throughout the event. Totaro praised students for taking the pivotal step of participating in the night’s occasion.

“Be bold yourself,” he stated. “Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you — take that initiative.”

Featured representatives remained highly approachable and constructive as students engaged them in inquiry. Similarly to Bentivenga, several other alumni representatives were looking to assist younger generations of students to find their proper place and career field. An undeniable passion and appreciation for Fairfield University were present. 

One of these former Stags was Ursula Hurley ‘04, the chief financial officer at JetBlue. 

“I want [students] to be inspired, and I want them to get the most out of their experience at Fairfield. I want them to know that the sky’s not the limit,” stated Hurley, on what she hoped students got out of the event. 

Student attendees left very satisfied with the event, which ran much past its scheduled end time of 7:30 p.m. Garvey noted its significant improvement from its COVID days, which relied on a solely online venue.

While some students, such as Lauren Martland ‘25, wished discussion time with representatives had lasted longer or was more accessible, others could not have been more pleased with the outcome. Sophomore Matthew Moran says that he “enjoyed being able to speak to certain speakers after the event.”

Students and representatives began to shuffle out close to 8 p.m., with most attendees gone by 8:30 p.m. All attendees were welcome to take a snack or beverage from their two refreshment tables, which provided water, soda, a charcuterie board and grab-and-go appetizers. 

Preparation for the event required a reserved space in the Dolan Event Hall which would fit their expected attendance, around 80 to 100 students. A mass email was then sent to all majors within the DSB advertising the impressive opportunity. 

The event’s grand attendance, while unanticipated and quite shocking, truly made the event as successful as it occurred. Sophomore Jennifer Peña contributed her positive review of the event.

“It was a great way to be able to interact with [Dolan School of Business] alumni who care about current students at Fairfield [and] who want to give advice.” She continued, “It was a great opportunity to network and it’s great to know there are people who are looking out for me!”

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