Alumni help with interview boot camp

DECATUR, Ill. - DECATUR -- Some educational leaders headed back to their alma mater to pay it forward. Graduates -- and almost-grads -- spent the day together at Millikin University. The alumni came from the School of Education. They want to help the upcoming seniors follow in their footsteps. They helped students practice for getting their first job.

The seniors are going to start applying in the next couple months. So Tuesday gave them the chance to practice with a few people who had been in their shoes before. Senior students at Millikin are looking ahead to graduation. But before the semester ends, they have a few more lessons to learn.

"It is the perfect example of performance learning, which is what Millikin is all about," said Steffanie Seegmiller, who is the coordinator for clinical practice at Millikin. "We have talked in theory and practiced interviews, but to be able to come and have live interviews with administrators that are practicing educators is an amazing experience."

The education students got some face-time alongside alumni who are now school leaders across the state. Students say the idea of finally starting a career is exciting and scary all at once.

"It's a little overwhelming knowing that potentially I could not have a job until August, but I think it's exciting for me to know I'm moving in that direction for something I've been passionate about my whole life," said senior Christina Wilke.

"Just showing up isn't enough," said Tom Mahoney, who is the superintendent for Oregon Schools and a Millikin grad. "You have to differentiate yourself."

Mahoney came up with this idea a few years ago. He says the students need to master the art of the interview.

"This generation, just because they're so technology advanced, that's how they communicate," said Mahoney. "This isn't that way. Being aware of saying, 'um' or 'like,' those are things that sometimes they haven't even thought about because they don't communicate face to face so often."

Even lunch became part of the process as students balanced eating and interacting.

"I was like, probably less is more," said senior Jacob Griffith. "I don't want to spill anything on my suit of anything like that. Make sure I stay clean. Don't be shoving food in my mouth so I can still have a conversation with them."

Students say they hope to build on this foundation as they wrap up their time on campus. The alumni were principals and superintendents from across the state. They say they're happy to give back to their old school.


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