Alumni Networks Grow, Imparting Valuable Lessons

When Aaron Fouladian (MSB ’11) attended a business school event at the Princeton Club of New York early last summer, he was met by a soon-to-be mentor — a recent Georgetown alum.

“She was someone I could reach out to with any questions I had and was always helpful in giving me advice to succeed in my internship,” Fouladian said.

The annual Alumni Mentor Program — set up by the McDonough School of Business Undergraduate Dean’s Office — pairs students with recent alumni as they complete their internships. With less than 20 percent of 2009 college graduates having secured jobs at the time of graduation, nationally, the Alumni Mentor Program is only one of a growing number of alumni-student groups on a campus that prides itself on its graduates’ employment rate.

Over the years, Georgetown’s alumni connection networks have moved past the broad Alumni Association and its various career services to a growing group of specialized and increasingly student-centered organizations and networks.

“Students understand the alumni network at Georgetown is one of [its] greatest assets,” David Nicol (SFS ’12) said.

Besides the MSB’s Alumni Mentor Program, programs like the Wall Street Alliance, Friends of the SFS, Women Advancing Gender Equity, the relatively new Hoya Diplomatic Network and many others work to bring students and alums together.

Student clubs also have their own alumni career networks. Groups like the College Democrats and The Corp maintain connections with alumni, who assist current members in obtaining internships and jobs.

The Alumni Career Network, an alumni database of over 18,000, holds events throughout the year in an effort to connect students and alumni. Events include industry-specific lunches, the Winter Break Tour held in major cities across the country, and last week’s speed-networking event, “Ready Set Connect,” among others.

 

“The hope is that through connections made at these activities, students can tap into the web of alumni connections that go well beyond that event,” Emily White, Assistant Director of Alumni Career Services, said. “Alumni are excited to share their expertise with students and likewise, hear about life at Georgetown today.”

Not all networking opportunities are created equal, however, and not all students feel that they have equal access to alums.

Networks for School of Nursing and Health Studies-related industries tend to be geared towards graduate or medical school students, according to students familiar with the job networks. And with so many business-oriented recruiting events at the Career Education Center and the variety of School of Foreign Service-oriented networks, College students sometimes feel left out of the loop.

“I don’t think there are enough ways to interact with alums,” Preston Mui (COL ’13) said. “I wouldn’t know how to reach an alum if I wanted to. I’m aware of various events where there are alums present, but not so aware of a systematic way that I can search for alumni and proactively reach them.”

The difference, however, may be due more to the types of jobs available than lack of resources.

“I don’t know if that’s necessarily the fault of the school or the nature of the industry,” Nicol said. “[Business-related recruiters are interested in] getting the best talent first whereas nonprofit, for example, is more interested in getting students who share its values.”

Nicol is one of several student coordinators in the Friends of the SFS group on campus, which brings together students and alums each semester to discuss topics related to the foreign service sector. Many undergraduates, like Nicol, meet alums during the process who become resources. He made contacts that led to his current job during a similar networking opportunity.

But student-alumni interactions don’t provide just job opportunities, Nicol said. For the stereotypically ambitious Georgetown student, meeting alumni injects a bit of reality into students’ pre-conceived notions.

“I think at the very least students hear what it’s like in the professional world, and they hear what it’s like to work in a lot of careers where [students] think they already know what’s going on,” Nicol said.

Other specialized career opportunities highlight various jobs from the female perspectives.

The WAGE Fellowship program, operating out of the Women’s Center, brings together a small number of junior and senior female student leaders to discuss issues, engage in campus and community activities and interact with administrators, faculty and alumnae.

For students like Claire Austin (SFS ’12), the group provides — among other things — an alumna who functions as a mentor.

“[My mentor has] helped me with my resume and alerted [me] to job and professional development opportunities, but also really connected with me on a deeper level, even though we haven’t known each other for long,” Austin said.

The group, which was created in 2008, fills a specialized need on campus.

“We need more [groups promoting women leadership] around campus,” said Laura Kovach, director of the Women’s Center. “There hasn’t been enough happening to support these women.”

Together, the Women’s Center and the Alumni Association — led by President Julia Farr Connolly — are working more toward a partnership in recognition of that need. Kovach said other groups on campus, such as Georgetown University Women’s Leadership Initiative, are also working toward a similar goal.

“Now that we see women have more power, especially in politics, our students need to see that and to see Hoya women [in those positions],” Kovach said.

With so many specialized groups, however, many say there is the danger of over-saturating the campus calendar. And connections, while helpful, do not always result in jobs. With the recent economic recession, students must sometimes be open to other options.

“Maybe this is the cynic in me, but at the end of the day, most of us recent grads took the job that was offered to us and not necessarily one that we thought would be our long-term careers — the economy sort of dictated that for us,” Henri Minion (SFS ’10) said.

Still though, contacts can be useful, and the alums who put their time and effort into returning to campus hope that they are doing some good. Their work in networks is not only a way for them to reconnect with previous classmates, but also a way to give back to their Georgetown community.

Denise Welch, a Georgetown graduate of 1988 currently working for the State Department, joined the relatively new Hoya Diplomatic Network as a way to reconnect with the university while supporting the State Department’s efforts in recruiting prospective talents. She also hoped to meet other Georgetown alums working for the department.

Welch, like other alums, aims to help students now and in the long run.

“My hope is that, at the very minimum, students will benefit from having a reliable source of information regarding foreign service work and life and the opportunity to engage with mentors who share a common experience,” Welch said.

Some of the students who have benefited from alumni efforts may find themselves in similar positions in the future, as they give back to their classmates and followers.

Fouladian, who is still in touch with his summer mentor, says he wants to pass on the help he received.

“I would like to be a mentor in the MSB mentorship program and be involved in the Georgetown Wall Street Alliance so I can continue to network with other Georgetown alumni as I progress in my career,” Fouladian said.

The Career Education Center could not be reached for comment for this article.

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