A chilly evening in early February found 80 college students virtually connecting around aspirations and career goals. Hosted in collaboration with College Possible Minnesota’s Alumni Leadership Council, the 2021 Alumni Career Panel featured five alumni panelists working in a variety of fields. By connecting students with alumni currently navigating the workforce, the event empowered scholars to network and connect their academic journey with their long-term goals.
“This type of programming highlights concrete examples of the possibilities that are available through attaining a college degree, while also connecting current students with inspiring and relatable role models,” said Director of College Success Erica Ledesma.
“A highlight from the event was hearing from program alumni about the tangible skills, expertise, internships and other opportunities afforded through college that facilitated entry and success in their current careers. These are powerful stories that concretely demonstrate the value of persisting through college and attaining a degree as a key milestone in unlocking future opportunities and choice post-graduation,” said Ledesma.
For students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation college students, developing and engaging a network in the professional world can be daunting. Many scholars may not have connections within the professional spheres they are hoping to enter, a barrier that students from more affluent backgrounds encounter less frequently.
“We hope the Alumni networking we are creating can help even the playing field a bit by connecting students to other folks who can understand their experience and are eager to help students learn about the professional world,” said Senior Director of Community Partnerships and Engagement Kumar Balasubrahmanyan.
Balasubrahmanyan also works with the Alumni Leadership Council, a group of alumni who meet quarterly to discuss events and programmatic updates, and who support College Possible Minnesota in build programming that reflects the needs of students and their communities.
Each year, the college team hosts events for the Career Readiness Series, which includes events like Internships 101 and the Alumni Career Panel. The 2020-21 program year is unique in that it is the first year with all virtual events. While posing its own set of challenges, going remote has helped make the Career Readiness Series accessible to more students.
“By having this event through Zoom, we eliminated a lot of barriers that students might otherwise run into, like transportation and flexibility with work schedules. Students from throughout the state and across the country were able to attend, when in the past, things like this have been limited to just to students in the Twin Cities. This has felt like a more equitable and accessible way to engage students in career readiness programming,” said Balasubrahmanyan.
To help build programming for future events and reflect on the evening, a post-event survey solicited feedback from attendees. Below are a couple quotes from college students who attended the Feb. 4, 2021, Alumni Career Panel:
“I really appreciated the versatility in the panel (speaker’s) career paths and how they shared how they got to where they are and still plan to go. Thank you so much for setting this up and executing it so marvelously!”
“My favorite part was getting to know more about the career that I am interested in but my interest also got piqued by the other careers that the panelists were talking about.”
Balasubrahmanyan summed up the evening well: “All students deserve opportunities like this, but rarely are they specifically designed for underrepresented students, which can make it hard for them to feel comfortable in these types of spaces. I think there is power in connecting students to alumni from our program so they can see themselves as the successful professionals we know they will become!”