ETTRICK - Education, opportunity, career development and networking were among the topics discussed at a Career Information Session that took place at Virginia State University Monday.
Headquarters, U.S. Army Installation Management Command sponsored the event, aiming to support initiatives of National African-American History Month while offering information about IMCOM civilian careers and successful career strategies.
"This was an opportunity for college students, particularly African-American students at this historically black college and university, to become aware of IMCOM civilian workforce opportunities," said Michael Lariosa, Special Emphasis Program manager, Headquarters, IMCOM.
Three Department of the Army civilians and one Soldier took turns at the podium to discuss their jobs, careers paths and some of the strategies that helped them progress through the ranks.
Ellis Dandy, a retired Soldier and the equal opportunity officer at Fort Benning, Ga., talked about the past struggles of African-Americans and how those struggles created opportunities for all people, especially within the federal government.
"The federal government is a great equalizer," he said after his presentation. "For me the Army was a great equalizer. I was able to do things at an early age that I could never do if I had stayed in private enterprise. When you look at it from that standpoint, the opportunities are there. It rests with you and what you're willing to do."
Larry Turner is the deputy inspector general at IMCOM. He expressed notions that achievement starts with an opportunity but can only be sustained through continuous development.
"I tried to convey to the audience that you have to be hungry and education is the key to success," said Turner.
Naomi Lynch, chief, Army Career and Alumni Program, IMCOM Hqs., talked to the audience about visualization - seeing themselves in a desired place in time.
"I think it is very important for people to see where they want to be," she said. "They need to see people who look like them, who understand the complexities of where they are. Once they are able to make that connection, it’s easy to convince them to move forward and choose something like working for the U.S. government as a way to give to their country, to their families and to their continued life experience."
Lynch also emphasized access to information as an important tool to gaining opportunities.
"Many times, failure is due to not having access to information," said the former college professor. "One of the things I always want to do is provide information and provide the mentorship that is needed."
After the presentation, the speakers made themselves available to the students. Graduate student Terrell Chestnut-Jefferson was among them.
"It was a good experience," he said. "I really enjoyed all the speeches on how to better my career and what I should focus on."
Lariosa said he’s sure the speakers drove home the core messages of the event.
"We wanted to let them know that we are going to recruit them, advance and develop them and help them fulfill their potential so that they can contribute to their own careers and to the nation as a whole," he said. "I think we did that."
VSU, located just outside Petersburg and minutes from Fort Lee, is a predominately black institution with an enrollment of about 5,000 students. Its Reserve Officer Training Corps program produces more African-American officers than any other HBCU in the country.