Urban League trainers, staff, sharpen craft at Miami University


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Michael Goldman, Director of Career Services at Miami University, welcomes Urban League staff members to campus Tuesday morning.

By Mark Curnutte
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio
OXFORD — The Miami University-Urban League partnership continues to build momentum, following an inspiring one-day professional training seminar held Tuesday for 20 League trainers and teachers on Miami’s Oxford campus.

Six members of Miami’s Career Services department led the day-long session tailored to the classroom and client-service needs of League trainers, social workers and teachers who have direct contact with its program participants and clients.

In October, seven members of Miami’s Career Services Department volunteered for two days at the Urban League in Avondale, where the conducted mock interviews for job-readiness program participants and help them develop their resumes.


The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, which provides Greater Cincinnati and Greater Dayton with industry-leading job-readiness, business development and youth programs, often works with the hardest-to-serve clients who have multiple barriers to employment — such as criminal backgrounds, transportation, educational shortcomings, and a mindset shaped by generational poverty.

Still, the League in Cincinnati and Dayton has historically graduated more than 80 percent of participants from classes, including the flagship three-week job-readiness boot camp known SOAR (Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention). With a roster of employers who appreciate the quality preparation and supports that job-seekers receive by the Urban League, more than 80 percent of program graduates are employed within three months.

The goal of Tuesday’s session at Miami’s Hoyt Hall, in the words of League SOAR trainer Greg Walker, was “to learn how to do it better.”

To that end, Miami’s career development experts, led by Kia Nalls, Miami’s Career Success Certificate and Mock Interview Coordinator, asked Urban League staff members what topics they wanted to cover.

The answers: classroom teaching techniques for adult learners, motivational interviewing, identifying skills sets employers seek, and refining job-search materials such as resumes and cover letters.

Heather Christman, Senior Assistant Director of Employer Relations and Career Development, led the session Adult Learning and Career Development. Much of her 75-minute presentation examined the learning process that leads to “self-authorship” of one’s life.

“I loved that piece,” said Rob Rodgers, SOAR Program Manager for Greater Cincinnati Urban League. “It’s going to help us, it reinforces, what we do to help folks transfer lessons learned in one part of their life to another part. Everyone has got their way of doing things. You have to help them see that what they’re doing might not be working and that they need to try it another way.”

Mary Beth Barnes, Miami’s Senior Assistant Director and Liaison to the College of Arts and Sciences, led a session on “Defining Skill Sets,” which involves helping students develop self-confidence by seeing how their skills often can transfer to other parts — the workplace, for example — of their lives.

Janie Robinson and Kelly Thompson co-taught the session on “Job Search Materials,” which went deep into the process of writing effective resumes and cover letters. Robinson, Assistant Director and Liaison to the College of Arts and Sciences; and Thompson, Assistant Director and Liaison to the College of Engineering and Computing, were two of Miami staff who volunteered at the League in October.

League trainers and staff spend a great deal of time helping program participants develop their first resumes and write cover letters for the first time. The exchange Tuesday was lively.

“They way I kind of think about it,” Thompson said of writing cover letters and teaching how to write on, “is to think about when you are in third or fourth grade and learning how to write an essay.”

Nalls, who also volunteered at the League in October, presented on “Motivational Interviewing,” a type of counseling.

At the Urban League, program participants — many of whom have criminal records — receive coaching in how to interview.

“There are ways that you can explain to an employer why you had that gap in employment,” Nalls said during the session. “You can communicate it in a non-threatening way.”

Michael Goldman, Director of Career Services and a lawyer who worked much of his career in human resources, wrapped up the day with a session what questions prospective employers can legally ask in an interview — especially as they relate to a job-seekers criminal record.

Urban League staff members said they took a great deal from the day-long training, besides a six-hour certification.

“A lot of it reinforced what we already do but gave us another way to look at things,” said Kenetra Mathis, Manager of Workforce Initiatives at Greater Cincinnati Urban League.

Miami President David Hodge encouraged the Miami-Urban League partnership and sees it as a positive experiential learning opportunity for Miami students and staff. Miami, one of the nation’s elite public universities, promotes community service by requiring it in various forms for graduation.

Nalls and faculty member Lee Harrington, Co-coordinator of Miami’s Social Justice Studies Program, has served as the primary contact with the Urban League. Harrington and three other Miami professors made an initial visit to the Greater Cincinnati Urban League in July.

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Heather Christman (right) leads a sessions on adult learning. Urban League Workforce Development staff Brian Harris (from left), Lionell Roberts and Greg Walker listen.

These Companies are Transformational Supporters of the Urban League’s Corporate Heritage Annual Giving Program.