Professional Development Retreat Prepares Students for Success

Merrimack College held its semi-annual Professional Development Retreat at the Commonwealth Hotel in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston Nov. 14-15 to help seniors prepare for the realities of the workforce and fine-tune their non-academic networking and interviewing skills to enhance professional confidence in the workplace.

One of the highlights came early in the retreat during a fireside chat with Amy McDonough ’97, the SVP and GM at FitBit Health Solutions that was sponsored by the Zatta Professional and Career Development Innovation Fund.

“Our main goal is to prepare students for the workforce by developing those professional skills and competencies that employers most value,” said Courtney Luongo, COO and senior associate vice president for the O’Brien Center for Career Development. “We focus on teamwork and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, leadership, cultural fluency, and communications, along with other key competencies that employers have identified as crucial for professional success.”

The 60 students who took part in the retreat went through a rigorous application process that included explanations of what they wanted to get out of the retreat, their professional and career goals, and what advice they would give to their freshman-selves. It was an anonymous selection process so names were not attached to the applications.

There are times when students earn full-time jobs and internships through connections they make at the retreat.

The first day of the retreat was booked with sessions based on recognizing personal strengths, problem-solving as part of a group, building a personal brand, and networking followed by an etiquette dinner. These sessions were sponsored by People’s United Bank, PROCON and Huron Consulting Group.

See full list of sponsors

The second day’s sessions included lessons on making your strongest personal pitch to employers, networking on social media and turning personal strengths and skills into opportunities through a skills-based career fair with companies like PUMA, Northwestern Mutual, Bose, Dell, and more. These sessions were sponsored by James A. Hogue, Jr. ’99, Elizabeth Yekhtikian and the Deloitte Foundation, Courtney Sullivan Murphy ’98 and Timothy Murphy ’88, H’14.

“PDR has been a great opportunity for me where I learned how to introduce myself properly to people in a professional setting,” said Paul Weidinger, a marketing and graphic design major. “It will be a great reference for the future to know how to speak publicly and how to network.”

Gianna Ferrini, a communications and media studies major added “the skills fair helped with networking and showed me that I can apply my skills to many different industries.”

“These students are incredibly impressive,” Luongo said. “They are ready to make an impact on the world.”


Thank you to our generous sponsors of this year’s semi-annual Professional Development Retreat:

James W. O’Brien Foundation
The Zatta Career and Professional Development Innovation Fund
Huron Consulting Group
People’s United Bank
Deloitte Foundation
Channel Building Company
W.B. Mason
Guggenheim Partners
Enterprise Bank
Northwestern Mutual
Flagship Press
Robert Zatta ’71 & Kathleen Zatta
Matthew Adams ’95 & Jackie Adams
Joanna Catalucci ’88
James A. Hogue, Jr. ’99 & Elizabeth Yekhtikian
Michael J. Loiacano ’95 & Susan E. Loiacano
Courtney Sullivan Murphy ’98 & Timothy Murphy ’88, H’14
Vincent J. Ragucci, III ’86 & Stacy Ragucci


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