For 34 years, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has retained a tradition of providing job opportunities through the annual Oshkosh Placement Exchange (OPE), a nationally recognized conference linking employers and potential job candidates.
This year’s conference will take place Feb. 28 through Mar. 3 in the Gruenhagen Conference Center (GCC) on the UW Oshkosh campus. More than 40 states will be represented through 155 registered college and university employers and 505 job candidates.
At the event, more than 400 university student affairs jobs will be up for grabs to candidates either close to completing their undergraduate degrees and are looking for graduate assistantship work or who have completed a master’s degree and are searching for full-time employment.
The OPE works to provide a platform for candidates and professionals to network and meet for job interviews.
Marc Nylen, director of GCC, said much of OPE’s success can be attributed to the event’s marketing arm, OPE On the Road, which deploys a marketing team that travels across the country sharing OPE with recruiters and candidates, drawing them to campus.
OPE’s success can also be attributed to the cooperation of campus departments and businesses in the community. The GCC and the Department of Residence Life team up to host the event each year, receiving help from many local businesses and creating what Nylen said is “truly a team effort.”
At UW Oshkosh, more than 70 students are involved in the planning and deployment of OPE.
“They do an incredible job each and every year,” Nylen said. “We receive outstanding feedback about our students and how they serve the needs of our OPE guests.”
But much of the success has to do with the event itself. Andy Schumacher, GCC front desk manager and reservation manager for the OPE, said OPE has a “proven track record” of fitting the right candidates with the right employers.
“Our history speaks for itself,” Schumacher said. “Employers come back year after year because of the quality candidates that they are hiring through our exchange. Candidates continue to come to us, either at an entry level because of the marketing or word of mouth from others, or as a returner because of their previous success.”
Schumacher said OPE is an effective way for employers and job candidates to meet each other in what could otherwise become an expensive process, serving “as a central location for employers and candidates to do a job search.” In addition, he said the Oshkosh community is a pleasant place for the gathering.
“I believe that many individuals who have never been to Oshkosh are shocked by the vast offering that our wonderful city has,” Schumacher said. “For those that are returners to the area, they know what to expect and love the additions to the community with new restaurants, stores and new and upgraded hotels.”
Another tradition, fused with OPE for more than two decades, is the Minority & Friends Network. The network helps people of color meet in a social setting for professional networking purposes.
The first meeting was held in a small hotel room in Oshkosh in 1992 before moving to Reeve Memorial Union and becoming the network it is today, with more than 60 sponsoring institutions participating. The Minority & Friends Network sponsors participate in OPE by hosting a Q-and-A session that allows candidates to pick the brains of professionals, as well as help staff the advice booth in the GCC.
The network will also host the Minority & Friends Network Social on Saturday, March 2 at the Oshkosh Convention Center. The social awards multiple $500 travel grants to candidates and a Diversity Award to a sponsoring institution, with both awards requiring a display of commitment to diversity from the recipients.
Nylen said OPE is an opportunity to serve the student affairs profession while sharing UW Oshkosh and the city with its visitors.
“The Oshkosh Placement Exchange serves the broader profession in hosting our event every year,” he said. “We take pride in knowing that 150 colleges and universities come to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh each and every year to hire their staff members.”
Interested OPE candidates still have time to register online in order to provide information to employers and gain access to job listings. Though early registration is recommended, candidates can also register during the conference.