Center for Professional Development hosts alumni-student mixer, roundtable

by Sonia Qin | 10/29/15 8:33pm

Last Thursday Dartmouth’s Center for Professional Development hosted two alumni-student events — a career conversation and a social. Alumni interviewed for this story expressed satisfaction with the event, though some suggested informing students about the alumni attendants would have improved the overall experience for students.

Feedback was requested at the round table discussion event. On average participants gave 4.8 on a scale on 5 as a response to whether or not they would recommend the event to a friend, and 4.7 out of 5 when asked if the event was helpful in their career and professional development.

The events were organized by CPD assistant director for experiential learning and advising Leslie Kingsley. The events were made possible with the help of the Professional Development Committee, part of the Dartmouth Alumni Council, who are back on campus twice a year for meetings. This committee is a volunteer group of alumni who are interested in helping engage other alumni. Kingsley said she wants to hold a similar event in the spring.

“When [this committee is] on campus, we like to create captive events for students and alumni to interact,” Kingsley said.

The first event of last Thursday was a career conversation organized in a round table format. Between 15 and 18 alumni attended this event, along with 35 students. Several categories of careers were represented, including marketing, film and media, education, consulting, financial services, law, start-ups and venture capital. The second event of the evening was a reception at the CPD office on South Main Street. Over 100 alumni and 75 students attended this social event.

“We would always love to see a larger amount of student participants,” Kingsley said.

Christine Nicholson ’74 now works at the Smithsonian Institution as Associate General Counsel in Washington, D.C. Nicholson, who headed directly to Harvard Law School after graduating from Dartmouth, represents her class on the Alumni Council.

Nicholson suggested that for any future alumni events, student interest in each field should be determined in advance to allow for more alumni in fields where demonstrated interest is higher. She said there seemed to be a lot of student interest in fields like entrepreneurship and less interest in law.

David Hetzel ’72 attended law school at the University of Virginia and now resides in Boston as a partner and litigation lawyer working for Holland & Knight, a large law firm with 22 offices worldwide.

Hetzel is part of the Alumni Council and is also a volunteer in Dartmouth’s professional development committee. He said the idea behind the mission of this committee is to enrich the career opportunities of students by leveraging the resources of alumni. He joined the committee, he said, because he thought it would give him the opportunity to interact with students.

Like Nicholson, Hetzel also enjoyed both the roundtable discussion and the social event.

“[This event] was a great opportunity for students to hear from people out in the trenches doing the work [the students] might want to do in the future,” Hetzel said.

He also suggested that alums could be inserted and involved in the residential community system when it is implemented for the Class of 2020 next year. These alums could have meals with students and be consulted for career advice. Hetzel said the informal setting would provide one of the best methods of communication.

“It’s relaxed. There’s no tension, there’s no stress and the alumni can be candid and answer questions candidly,” Hetzel said.

Luke Antal ’07 worked at a consulting firm, Investor Group Services, in Boston for two years following graduation. He is currently building a venture capital firm and is also working at a start up called Koru, Inc.

“I just love connecting with students,” he said. “The start-up that I work at actually is in the business of helping college seniors get their first job.”

Antal particularly enjoyed the roundtable discussion because students were already sorted into tables according to their interests.

For future planning, Antal advises the CPD to prepare the students for who they’re speaking with, so they can come with specific questions about the alum’s background and the things that they have done.

“They can share the LinkedIn profiles of attending alums and have the students do some research before the event,” Antal said.

Hoi Ning Ngai ’00 worked in a number of different industries after graduation, including non-profit and human resources, before heading to graduate school at the University of California at Los Angeles. She worked at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania for several years, where she said she discovered her passion for advising. She is now the dean for academic advising and support at Kenyon College.

Ngai traveled to Hanover for the event because she is the Alumni Council’s Asian Pacific American Alumni Association representative. She did not attend the reception. Ngai thought the roundtable discussions were beneficial not only to students, but also for the participating alumni as well.

“I think that it was a good opportunity for alumni to hear more about what the student experience is like right now,” she said.

Ngai was seated at the education table, where she continued her conversation with students even after the event had formally ended.

Ngai also suggested that biographies of attending alumni be distributed to the students in the future.

“I think that maybe giving students a heads-up on the kinds of things we are doing may have drawn a broader array and larger number of people,” she said.

All alumni and students interviewed unanimously agreed that they would attend another similar event in the future.

Welch said he would like to continue seeing events with one-on-one career advice from people in the field.

“I think it would be great to have something like this at every Alumni Council session,” Antal said.

Camille Wang ’17 said the events were a great opportunity to meet Dartmouth’s alumni and learn about post-graduate opportunities. Wang, who is interested in environmental law, liked how the conversation with various alums helped her figure out which graduate schools have better reputations and what she can do to further explore her area of interest.

“I thought it was really amazing that all those alums came from different areas in the country, and there was even someone from London who flew here,” Wang said. “That was really amazing to me, because these people love Dartmouth so much and they want to help Dartmouth students.”

Austin Welch ’17 came to the event intending to learn more about careers in law, consulting and public service.

“I wanted the opportunity to ask professionals in the professions that I want to go into about not only their current work, but how they got to where they are, what paths they took and what advice they have for me,” Welch said.

While Welch was unable to attend the social event, he said the roundtable discussion event was well-attended and professional yet casual at the same time.

“It allowed me to have conversations with people frankly and candidly about their jobs,” he said.

Both students viewed the events positively, with Wang only adding that she wished there had been more time to talk to more alumni and visit more tables.