The Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Development implemented a new program this semester that aims to connect students with college alums. The Alumni-in-Residence program provides various opportunities for students to learn more about life after Amherst, build relationships and receive advice from alumni. The program brings various alumni to campus to host events relevant to their area of expertise over the course of a few days. Through workshops, office hours appointments and lunch and dinner meetings, students have access to alumni through different types of engagement.
The Alumni-in-Residence program is a replacement for the Pathways Mentorship Program, which was discontinued last year due to low student participation. Pathways paired students with alumni in a virtual mentorship system and allowed students to ask alums for guidance on future career paths, among other things. However, the online design of the program “did not feel very organic,” according to Loeb Center Director Emily Griffen, which made the student-alumni relationships established by the program relatively ineffective compared to in-person relationships.
The Alumni-in-Residence program, in contrast, brings alumni to campus, where they can interact with students in person. Students can attend any or all events held on campus based on their preference and then decide later whether or not to reach out and follow up with the alum. These interactions “naturally result in connections that students and alumni want to nurture,” Griffen said.
According to Griffen, career diversity is one of the core values that the program was built around. Specifically selecting a diverse pool of alumni with different sets of backgrounds and careers, the program was designed to expose students to a wide range of possible career options.
Every career community adviser at the Loeb Center is responsible for bringing one alum per semester.
The workshops are an opportunity for students of all years and backgrounds to participate in a general discussion that allows them to simply “learn skills or explore topics within the alum’s chosen career field,” said Griffen.
For students seeking a more personal experience with alumni, office hours appointments are available for students to receive “tailored advice in a one-on-one setting,” said Griffen. Furthermore, an opportunity to participate in informal conversations with alumni over food is available to students through lunch or dinner.
After attending an informal lunch discussion with alum-in-residence Thais Correia ’16 in the Queer Resource Center (QRC), Sasha Valone ’21 said that the lunch allowed the students to “resonate with the alum on the basis of their queer identity and interest in technology,” two topics particularly important to Valone.
Alum-in-residence Aleszu Bajak ’06, who recently visited Amherst to discuss his experience in science journalism, was impressed with the outcome of his visit, noting that “almost every single student that signed up for office hours followed up.”
Unlike Pathways, which didn’t have much involvement from the Loeb Center advisers, according to Griffen, Alumni-in-Residence allows advisers to talk “behind the scenes” and meet with each alum to assess the expertise, skills and knowledge they can offer to students that the advisers cannot.