Shout Out To Fellow Graduate Program Alumnni!

By Luis H. Garay
@LuisHGaray

When I was doing my graduate school search I did not give much thought to the alumni of my graduate program. I could not really say why I was ignoring such a vital part of a graduate program. It was probably because they seemed far removed from my experience.

I am now glad to say my ignorance has gone away and now I see the blessings of connecting with alumni of my graduate program. (Also, does anyone else struggle with the use of alumnus/alumnae/alumni? I frequently refer to this guide)

I recently experience a relatively minor bump in the job search. Naturally, I was feeling a little low and unbalanced. I was set to meet up for dinner with a fellow alumnus in downtown Chicago since we are now both back in our hometowns. They were a second year in the program when I was a first-year and we bonded over our hometowns and our people of color identity. After dinner (shout out to Eleven City Diner in the South Loop!) and catching up, I felt recharged about the job search. It was only a year since they had been in my shoes. Their listening, insight, and wisdom was truly invaluable as they normalized my experience, told me I possessed excellent skills and experiences, and to trust the process.

Second recent experience was finding a job posting in a functional area within student affairs I knew a fellow alumnus worked in. We had connected via Twitter at the beginning of my graduate school experience, met face-to-face at a professional conference, and had kept in touch following that conference. I emailed them asking if they would review and edit my resume since I valued their experience and knowledge in this particular functional area.

The following is not a recent experience but an experience from graduate school: one of my mentors during graduate school was an alumnus of the program who graduated a couple of months before I entered the program. (Fun fact: they drove me to the airport following my on-campus interview and then later interviewed me for my graduate assistantship which they served in the role prior to me). Again, their experience and knowledge of the program was invaluable. When I was worried about a big paper or a test they recalled their same worriment. It was also enriching to hear them speak on their first year of being a professional and someone on the other side of a bridge I was then walking across. 

I tell these three stories to encourage all SAFirstYears Readers about connecting with the alumni from their program. I especially write this for #sagrad entering the first-year of their program this upcoming fall.

How can you connect with fellow alumni? I found the following useful:

  1. Social Media – Did you know if you use the search feature of Twitter you can find which people with a specific search term have it in their profile? For instance, if I searched “@UCM_CSPA” (University of Central Missouri’s College Student Personnel Administration Program’s Twitter account) or “@UCentralMo” (University of Central Missouri’s twitter account) I could see anyone who had these in their profiles. There are also Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, and other social media groups where fellow or soon-to-be fellow alumni might be engaging.
  2. Regional/State-Wide/National Conferences – Maybe some of the alumni of your program stayed in the region or in the state of your graduate school institution, find out where your alumni are and connect with them at these conferences. If you are going to any conference, ask your professors if they know if there are planned meet-ups for your program. (PS: This is why it’s always great to introduce yourself with your institution or sport some lapel or other apparel from your graduate program)
  3. Your Institution itself or Peer Institution(s) – Maybe alumni were hired after or at the end of their graduate program. Seek out these people in their respective offices and departments. Talk to them, they have wonderful insight
  4. Your cohort – If your program is cohort style, get to know the people who are your year and in the year(s) ahead of you. Your cohort peers may be able to serve as resources for an institution you may apply at some point (and even references!). We know student affairs is a small field, it’s even smaller with the alumni of your program
There are not only three ways to connect with alumni. What are some ways your institution or programs are staying connected to their alumni? Or, any ideas which you have on the importance of connecting to graduate program alumni? Let me know, tweet me at @LuisHGaray or comment below. As always, thanks for reading!

PS: A special shout out to Jamila Anderson, Brett Bruner, and Christopher Beggs for being awesome fellow UCM CSPA alumni! I endlessly appreciate your wisdom, insight, and advice. Go Mules!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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