Alumni Connect with Current Students
Kelly Zimmerman certainly made the most of her spring break in Washington, D.C. The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications master’s student followed an experienced reporter as he covered a forum on energy efficiency and met with several legislative assistants and lobbyists. “And that was all in one day!” she says.
Zimmerman’s whirlwind experience was part of the 2011 Northwestern Externship Program in which 318 students shadowed 220 alumni host professionals all across the country. Zimmerman and another Northwestern student were paired with Herman Wang (WCAS01, GJ03), an associate editor at the energy news organization Platts.
“Getting out there to see what a real professional newsroom is like and how it operates was great,” she says. “But to be able to talk with people who were in my exact position several years ago was really beneficial. … I got to ask them questions before I start my job hunt.”
NEXT is just one of the many programs that the Northwestern Alumni Association, in conjunction with University Career Services, has created to connect current students with alumni. Other events and services include Dinner with 12 Strangers; speed networking; mentoring through the Council of One Hundred; simulated interviewing through the mock interview program; access to the online career networking tool Northwestern CareerNet; and access to the Northwestern alumni group on LinkedIn, which has more than 20,000 members.
“As the newest members of the NAA, our students are welcomed into the alumni community through these events and services,” says NAA executive director Cathy Stembridge (GC00). “Our priority is to show them the benefits of being a part of this robust alumni network and offer them experiences that enhance their lives and help them with their careers.”
That’s exactly what brought student Jeffrey Eiden out to the Northwestern–University of Michigan men’s basketball game at Welsh-Ryan Arena in mid-January. Before the game the NAA and Wildcat Athletics sponsored an Entrepreneurship Networking Night — one of two networking sessions that attracted more than 200 alumni and student attendees. The School of Communication junior, who created the web startup Present Bee, came looking for connections that could help him grow his fledgling business.
“I had meaningful conversations with at least 10 alumni from various backgrounds,” Eiden says. “With each conversation, I met someone with a unique perspective on achieving success as an entrepreneur in today’s digital world.”
The Council of One Hundred, a women’s mentoring organization of prominent alumnae, also dispenses career-related advice to female students at its annual spring student meeting and through its new mentoring program. The program, which launched last year, pairs students and young alumnae with council members who commit to mentoring them for a period of three months. The members offer advice on paths to pursue and how to make connections in their local communities.
“For a student or a young alumna of Northwestern, the Council of One Hundred is the single most powerful career network they have,” says C100 chair Candy Deemer (J76, GJ77). “We’re trying to become more accessible so they can tap into us more than twice a year at meetings.”
Alumni seem to relish the chance to connect with current students. For example, 66 Chicagoland alumni and friends hosted more than 250 students and faculty at 26 locations last fall for Dinner with 12 Strangers, a program co-sponsored by NCA – A Student-Alumni Partnership (formerly the Northwestern Class Alliance) where alumni and trustees host camaraderie-building dinners with students and faculty. Three-time host Marc McClellan (C81) says he enjoys meeting students from a range of backgrounds. “Bringing together students, faculty and alumni from diverse backgrounds helps build community and foster a lifelong connection to Northwestern,” he says.