Finding Common Ground

Finding Common Ground

Alumni at Smith CollegeThis past Tuesday I returned from a week back east where I celebrated the graduation of my daughter from Smith College and enjoyed the many activities that led up to Sundays commencement.

I couldn’t help but feel proud of my alma mater as I sat through the traditional Ivy Day parade and celebration on Saturday morning and listened to the board of trustees, the administration, the seniors and their guests honor the alums of the 10-year classes. Watching the class of 1964 march through the quad brought tears to my eyes ?44% of the original class was in attendance for this, their 50th reunion. Their joy at being back on campus and with each other was exhilarating.

Even more astounding than their record attendance was their recognized participation as officers of the Alumnae Association and volunteers for Smith Clubs around the world. It seemed as though at least 85% of those on campus last weekend are, or have been, actively involved with Smith College since they graduated 50 years ago. Clearly, Smith College made a tremendous, lifelong impact on each and every one of them, and they see it as their pleasure and responsibility to instill a sense of pride and well-being in future alumnae.

As I sat in the stands, I thought back to when my daughter was applying to colleges and ultimately the days before she had to make her final decision about which college to attend. I have no doubt her interactions with alumnae, both young and old, played a big part in her decision to choose Smith. She had the opportunity to meet with a dynamic Smith Club president from the class of 50 who visited her high school at application time. Together we then attended several Smith Club functions where she met with both recent and long-time alums. I believe that it was their common outlook on life, their genuine and unending enthusiasm for the college and their desire to share their experiences with prospective students that truly moved her.

Last month, a client of mine was visiting a number of liberal arts colleges to which she had been accepted. When she returned from her trip, she had narrowed down her choices to two schools. She had had in-depth visits at both schools, including sitting in on classes, meeting with professors, eating in the dining halls and overnight stays. Yet, she still couldnt make up her mind. What I suggested was that she contact the local alumni clubs for both schools and talk to members to get more insight. She took my advice and finally made her decision by April 29th!

I highly recommend that your teen do some research on the alumni associations at the colleges that he or she is considering. How active are the alumni? How willing are they to talk to prospective, current and recently graduated students? Will they help with networking and internships? How active are they with fundraising? What he finds out might have a bearing on some of his decisions.

Also, take advantage of opportunities for your teen to attend events sponsored by the local alumni clubs they often host both prospective and accepted student events and she might even be able to attend another event as a guest. These events will give him an opportunity to speak one-on-one with others who have attended the college or university and can share their experiences.

Janice Caine



1 Comment
  • Marcia Cantarella
    Posted at 10:32h, 30 May Reply

    An important point of view. I have been for several years a member of the Alumni Association Executive Board for Bryn Mawr College. My term ends this year. But my role has been to focus on the career needs of alumni and also on how alumni can serve the career needs of the undergraduates. As a college administrator and now consultant/author I have long said that students both on their way to college and on their way out should tap the alumni. Those looking at colleges should hear if alumni had a good experience. Both my stepdaughter and I are Bryn Mawr graduates and while we had very different experiences we have told my granddaughter to put it on her list. We got a great education and know some pretty amazing women as a result of our time there. While in college alumni can be guides to selecting departments and love to talk about favorite professors if they are still there. Both my stepdaughter and I took Greek Lit in Translation from the same outstanding professor. Good move. As students think about career paths alumni are the first place they should look for networks. There has been a Bryn Mawr fingerprint at almost every stage of my career path. I constantly connect the students I work with now to alumni of the schools where I have worked. A student considering a career in social work talked recently with an alumnus whose path was identical to the one this young man was considering. Further alumni satisfaction (tied to donations) is increased when they can be useful and especially be connected to the students of today. This is totally a win-win scenario.

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