By Mackenzie Maurer, Digital Design Fellow
Networking is an essential tool for developing professional relationships between colleagues, clients, and within the community that an organization resides. With that, our team not only encourages the Fellows to engage in networking to prepare them for graduating and entering the job market but also works toward fostering networking and collaboration within the community.
There are many events that our partners hold as well as events that we host where Fellows, staff, and clients can interact with each other and with other professionals in the Reading and Alvernia communities. For example, O’Pake hosts monthly educational programming for business incubator tenants and clients as well as six best practice seminars through the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
“Ever since starting with O’Pake, my networking experience has been taken to the next level. I’ve been able to meet new people and get to meet the clients we host in our business incubator located at CollegeTowne,” said Adonis Fleming, graduate assistant of community outreach.
In addition, the team sends out various other networking event opportunities as they are presented by Alvernia and our other various partners and sponsors to the undergraduate and graduate Fellow team to attend within their course schedules.
Ashley Abbey, the graduate assistant of student and client services, has experienced many networking opportunities throughout her college career. She said that her position as a graduate assistant has especially facilitated many of those opportunities. O’Pake offers a mentor program where each Fellow obtains a mentor in addition to getting to attend various events and working directly with industry professionals.
“For the students, it is more about growth. They can connect with people who have more experience and knowledge, and they can pass that valuable information onto the students through these experiences,” said Abbey.
In addition to exposing students to networking opportunities, part of O’Pake’s mission is to serve as a connector in the Reading community whether that be business to business through our professional service providers sector, referring a client who needs services outside of our expertise to one of our many partners, etc.
“Within the community, we can see clients that can be assets to each other, and we have a lot of opportunities to network with people that are high profile within the Reading community… it is all about naturally beneficial relationships and how the clients can benefit each other,” said Abbey.
Fleming expressed that he garnered his ability to connect with the community of Reading through networking from growing up right in Downtown Reading. He was able to become quite active and get to know a lot of the local businesses in the area, which has complemented his graduate assistantship.
He explained that one of the many values of networking in the community is that word of mouth communication has served to be instrumental in spreading the news about the Reading CollegeTowne strategy to local businesses and other residents in the community. The connection that can be fostered through networking whether it is in person at an event or through a zoom call, has been instrumental in the development of O’Pake’s role in the Reading CollegeTowne strategy.
“Our mission at O’Pake and Alvernia is to be good neighbors to those that were here before us and to not step on the toes of any of the existing businesses. We are trying to focus on partnerships in our network, and how we can revitalize the city of Reading together,” said Fleming.