University News

One of Groupon's values is an "aim to provide an escape from the everyday grind." Recently, several Western Illinois University students got out of what can be the everyday grind of attending class, homework and studying in college. In mid-March, 18 undergraduate students were treated to a tour of Groupon's Chicago-based headquarters.
[Download Print-Quality Image]

WIU Students Get Out of College Grind with Groupon Tour and Networking Opportunity

April 20, 2015


Share |
Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL — One of Groupon's values is an "aim to provide an escape from the everyday grind." Recently, several Western Illinois University students—thanks to the efforts of Katharine "Katie" Barnard (Lyons, CO), a graduate assistant in the WIU Career Development Center (CDC), and CDC Assistant Director Michelle Howe—got out of what can be the everyday grind of attending class, homework and studying in college. In mid-March, 18 undergraduate students were treated to a tour of Groupon at its Chicago-based headquarters.

According to Howe, the Groupon trip came about through the efforts of Barnard, who is a graduate student in Western's College Student Personnel program, and Michael Erickson, a recruiter at the group-buying website, which offers daily deals.

"I sent a lot of email messages to set up this trip," Barnard said. "It took me a long time to find a company willing to let students come and visit. Once I connected with Groupon, it was a matter of creating an event I thought would be beneficial for students and what Groupon employees could realistically provide. In working with students, I tried to reach out to them on multiple levels with advertising through advisors, classmates, professors, social media and flyers."

Meghan Garman (Sycamore, IL), a senior marketing major who took part in the trip, said although the WIU group did not get to meet with any Groupon marketing employees during the activity, the trip was "extremely beneficial."

"I walked away not only with a desire to work at Groupon, but also to work in general. It was eye opening to see a corporate setting in the midst of the afternoon and what working professionals are like in their environment. It made me excited to get out there and be a part of a team like Groupon. It also gave me a chance to network with professionals and gain more confidence and understanding from them. I connected with a few people on LinkedIn who spoke with us, and I feel confident in my abilities to network with people outside of my WIU network," she explained.

According to Howe, the experience provided the students with an excellent opportunity to get an inside look at a large company, but one with a unique approach to work.

"Two recruiters were responsible for this event, and they each took a group of students on a 20-minute tour of the headquarters," Howe noted. "Groupon's facility is designed to increase collaboration among employees, so everyone works side by side in long rows. There are more than 60 small conference rooms for employees to use, and there are multiple dining and beverage areas, including a tiki hut. In the basement, there are ping pong tables, pool tables and other games for employees."

She added, for more than an hour after the tour, the recruiters and two additional Groupon employees allowed students to ask questions about Groupon and the company's hiring practices.

Barnard said all of the WIU students who expressed an interest in attending participated in the trip. Many of them are students studying in the WIU College of Business and Technology.

"I think the students benefited from the ability to meet with the recruiters and learn from them directly. They also got to see what the culture of a big company is like, and the tour facilitated a networking opportunity during which students could try out their skills while still having the support of their peers," she said. "I sent an evaluation survey to the students who attended afterward, and 100 percent of the respondents indicated the event met the goal they came into it with. In addition, 78 percent of them said they felt more comfortable job searching, and 89 percent of them said they felt more comfortable networking. Even though they only got to tour and speak with recruiters from one company, I think the information they learned will be able to translate to their overall individual job searches and application processes."

Garman agreed the networking opportunity was among the best aspects of the trip. She said learning about the world of professional "work" in classrooms is one thing, but the ability to meet Groupon recruiters in their actual corporate setting was invaluable.

"From this experience, I learned the importance of networking, the thrill of a job and what recruiters are actually looking for. I also learned I am under qualified, and I need more experience, but there are people willing to help," she explained. "This was a phenomenal experience, and I am beyond glad I attended. I coerced two of my friends into attending with me, and they both walked away glad they participated, as well. It was truly one of the best professional experiences I have had at WIU, and I will remember it always."

For more information, contact Howe at (309) 298-1838 or via email at MC-Howe@wiu.edu. Learn more about WIU Career Development Center, and the resources and services offered to WIU students and alumni there, at www.wiu.edu/student_services/career_development_center/. Learn more about Groupon at www.groupon.com/press/about-groupon.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (WIUNews@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations