WRAP-UP OF WINTER BREAK MAKING CONNECTIONS 2011
by Elizabeth Ford '93, MS '96
Where can Trinity alumni and students gather important career guidance, valuable life lessons, renew friendships and meet fellow Trinitonians and have a great time in the process - and all at the same time? Making Connections networking programs each year in early January, of course! Meaningful interactions and conversations started the New Year off on a positive note for more than 100 Trinity current students and 330 alumni from the West Coast to the East Coast during the Winter Break in a total of ten alumni chapters - Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, New England, New York City, Phoenix, and San Diego.
This was San Diego's first career event which was generously hosted at the home of Fritz and Cindy (Guldan) Hesse, both from the Class of 1987. Speaking to the great success of the event, Fritz who serves as San Diego's Career Network Chair, notes that "people like to socialize, but it is hard to put a pure 'value' on simple socializing. People will come back (to these networking events) if they can find meaningful connections that can make a difference in their lives."
The Alumni Office and Career Services collaborate with alumni chapters to make sure these connections - between student to alumni and between alumni to alumni - are truly worth the time and effort for all involved. Dr. Mary Kay Cooper, Director of Alumni Relations, explains that "the Alumni Relations Office coordinates the logistics of the events and getting alumni there. And the Career Services Office markets the events to students and preps them for networking." Students and alumni who took part in these networking events came away not only with actual business cards to follow up with their new alumni contacts, but also with a wealth of resources to help them with career direction and professional growth.
Rarely does attendance at a Making Connections career networking event conclude with a firm job offer but it does a lot to pave the way to a successful outcome for a student seeking an internship or a job lead or a graduate who is in the midst of a career transition. Dr. Brian Hirsch, Career Services Director, makes a practice of emphasizing to students that the U.S. Department of Labor lists more than 20,000 occupations. According to Hirsch, "this means that it is probable that not every student attending Making Connections meets someone who is in the exact occupation he or she is seeking. In spite of that, students have provided great feedback on moving forward with career exploration through Making Connections. At the event in Houston at the home of Harry and Cora Sue Mach, Jr. (parents of Trinity Trustee Steve Mach '92), we found a student majoring in communication having an in-depth conversation with an alumnus who also majored in communication and was working in the exact field of interest. We also met a student who was busy following up with several people she had met who weren't lawyers but who we suggested might know a lawyer (everyone knows a lawyer). In addition, at the event in Austin at the home of Stacy Brunson '81, one student interested in scientific writing and publishing met a graduate who is now working on a master's in journalism. He had work experience in some of her fields of interest and they were trading contact information." Furthermore, a Trinity junior, an accounting major, successfully connected with a Trinity graduate who is with a large CPA firm at the Phoenix event, held at Arizona Bank & Trust (where co-host Patrick Havey '80 is employed). Ray Fox '78, Arizona's Alumni Chapter President, was Patrick's co-host for the event.
As you can see, the phrase "just showing up is half the reward" is certainly true of Making Connections. The richness of knowledge shared among alumni and students is what makes these events so unique and special. Each conversation offers opportunities for both students and alumni to learn what exciting programs are happening on campus from the student perspective and the challenges and the rewards of joining the working world after graduation from the graduate's point of view. Listening to this latter point has increased importance and prevalence due to growing uncertainties in the job market. Alumni are able to give realistic expectations and encouragement to help minimize disappointments and avoid pitfalls.
Another adage is equally appropriate to mention - "one receives what he or she puts into an endeavor." When students and alumni arrive at these events with realistic expectations, are prepared with constructive questions, and equipped with the confidence they honed at Trinity to meet those more than willing to assist them in their career development, the results have the potential to be simply amazing. A student interested in finding out what a typical day is like in the field of law or in science or learning how they can find an internship before graduation can learn volumes simply by striking up a conversation with a Trinity graduate at these receptions. Because of these customizations, each of the ten networking events takes on a life on its own and by design, is tailored to suit the alumni chapter which hosts its event since "one size certainly does not fit all."
We extend special thanks and sincere gratitude to the following Career Network Chairs and Event Coordinators of these events (Carol W. Folbre, Ph.D. '81, San Antonio Career Network Chair; Greg Hudson '91, Houston Career Network Chair; Bryan Owens '00, Dallas Career Network Chair; Kristie Taliaferro Gibson '98, Fort Worth Career Network Chair; Michelle Hardy '99, Austin Career Network Chair; Ray Fox '78, Arizona Chapter President and Patrick Havey '80, Event Co-Chair; Sally Stephens Westmoreland '76, Atlanta Career Network Chair; Tres Evans '07, New York Event Coordinator; Fritz Hesse '87, San Diego Career Network Chair; Jessica Patrick '02, New England Career Network Chair; Colin McRoberts '01, Chicago Career Network Chair; Dan Nevrivy '95, National Capital Area Career Network Chair; Erik Sartorius, '92 Kansas City Event Coordinator; and Eric Hilty '88, National Alumni Board Member and Colorado Career Network Chair) for their outstanding leadership. We also greatly appreciate the hosts - for the warm welcome to their homes and offices, for their gracious hospitality in greeting students and alumni and for motivating and inspiring those who took part to pursue their professional aspirations with a renewed sense of poise, purpose and promise.
Please contact Elizabeth Ford directly at 210-999-8435 if you have questions regarding the Career Network.