Adapting the LEDA Career Institute to the COVID-19 pandemic


Back in the spring, LEDA, along with many peer organizations, faced an unexpected and pressing challenge: adapting our summer programming to ensure that we could continue to serve our students during the COVID-19 pandemic. We moved swiftly and intentionally to implement a virtual model, and while this required significant adjustments to programs like the LEDA Career Institute, which wrapped up today, it also presented new opportunities.

LEDA is well-versed in providing remote support for LEDA Career Fellows at colleges throughout the country during the academic year. We successfully applied this expertise to develop an online model that would provide this year’s new Fellows with an experience that not only preserved, but expanded the signature features of our prior, in-person Career Institutes.

2020 LEDA Career Institute - Lamont and Lisa Coleman2020 LEDA Career Institute - Alumni
An Executive Leadership Conversation LEDA Executive Director Lamont Gordon and Dr. Lisa M. Coleman, Senior Vice President for Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation and Chief Diversity Officer at NYULEDA alumni panel with LEDA Scholars Christian, Hung, Shola, Suren, and Yelka

The 2020 Career Institute included session presenters from 36 organizations across the private, public, and academic sectors. Some of them were returning partners, such as CoStar Group, PIMCO, and Ropes & Gray LLP, whose continuing support has been instrumental since our very first Career Institute. Others, such as Standard Chartered and Fortress Investment Group, were new members of the LEDA Career Network that we were delighted to welcome.

Over the past five days, LEDA harnessed an online platform that centralized scheduling, session information, and this year’s “Main Stage” plenary events for our 177 new Fellows. Sessions that were adapted from prior years included core career development workshops to help lay the foundation for career exploration and build career competencies, industry career panels to provide an introduction to an array of professional fields, and information sessions and “office hours” hosted by employer partners for Fellows interested in specific organizations. One-on-one career coaching appointments allowed Fellows to begin developing action steps toward their professional interests and goals, and a prioritization of fun community events and debrief sessions with our Career Mentors created spaces for meaningful interactions with staff and other Career Fellows.

2020 LEDA Career Institute - Careers in Law2020 LEDA Career Institute - Elaine Chin
Careers in Law panel with Andrea, Chidi, Eri, Jessica, Kayasha, and Zeb moderated by LEDA Board member Jesse M. FurmanAn Executive Leadership Conversation with LEDA Senior Director of Career and Alumni Services Keisha Taffe and Elaine Chin of Standard Chartered

Some new additions this year included:

  • Additional industry panels for Fellowships and for Academia and Research, joining the old favorites covering Consulting, Finance, Government and Public Service, Law, Social Impact, and Corporate Social Responsibility.
  • Executive Leader Conversations in which senior leaders across industries shared their personal stories of leadership, career insights, and tips on optimizing leadership development.
  • A Future of Work Roundtable of recruitment experts who discussed workforce development, recruitment, employee engagement, and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) while offering Career Fellows an opportunity to learn how these organizations are thinking about the future of work.
  • A Virtual Career Expo open to the broader LEDA community to facilitate networking between Scholars,Fellows, and employer partners in a virtual environment.

We’re grateful to all of the Career Fellows, Career Mentors and Coaches, sponsors, employer partners, and staff who made this first-of-its-kind experience such a success! Stay tuned through the rest of the summer as we continue to explore how LEDA has adapted to the “new normal.”

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