Virtual Career Conversations Event Brings the Power of the Allegheny College Alumni Network to Students

It’s indeed a familiar routine for many college students seeking their first professional position: Search. Click. Apply. Repeat.

And hope to hear back.

Even with thousands of opportunities just a website visit away, more than 80 percent of job seekers ultimately report finding employment through some form of personal contact, said Allegheny College Director of Career Education Jim Fitch.

To reinforce the power of the Allegheny network in building those personal connections, the College’s Career Education and Institutional Advancement Offices hosted their first virtual Career Conversations with Alumni event on Feb. 3. Twelve Allegheny alumni shared their experiences and expertise with 43 students who participated in the two-hour event, held in partnership with the College’s Alumni Council.

“We have an incredible alumni network, with thousands of generous individuals who want to offer their support and hard-won advice to current students,” Fitch said. “This event served as a pilot program to connect students with a small group of amazing alumni.”

The College has long benefited from alumni visiting campus to interact with students and opening their workplaces around the world to host students, said Allegheny Director of Alumni Relations Sally Barrett Hanley ’92.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed those face-to-face opportunities, so we were excited to explore a different avenue to facilitate connections between Gators,” she said. “Our alumni continue to step up and give back to their alma mater and support our students.”

Alumni who participated in the virtual event represented a wide range of fields, including law, marketing, medicine, public service and the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. Along with offering profession-specific information in breakout sessions, alumni provided students with insights on making the transition from college to career.

“I found that this event not only gave me useful tips when applying to jobs, but it also showed how Allegheny alumni were able to use their degrees and how it positively affected their careers  or future educational endeavors,” said India McCruter, a political science major and philosophy minor.

By assisting students during the event, Bethany Gigante Eppig ’10 said she welcomed the opportunity to continue the “cycle of mentorship.”

“My mentors and teachers throughout my college career were my champions who encouraged and pushed me to get where I am today. … They encouraged me to take every shot, apply for every opportunity that offered growth, and asked how they could help me along the way,” she said. “The support of a good mentor doesn’t stop once the student moves on from being an official mentee. Ten years later, I still contact them for advice.”

A sense of responsibility to help future generations of Gators likewise motivated Dan Donahoe ’11 to participate in the event. As Donahoe spoke with students during the event, he said he “saw and heard a bit of myself in each of them. … It felt rewarding to let them know that we had all ‘been there and done that,’ and that myself, and all of the Allegheny alumni throughout the world, welcomed them with open arms and would do anything to assist them, just as so many assisted us.”

The opportunity to connect with Gator alumni provided Allegheny senior Julie Cepec with valuable perspectives on finding her path after graduation, she said. Cepec, a biology major with minors in education studies and dance and movement studies, said alumni shared that the early stages of her career would likely include several positions on the way to her “dream job.” They also encouraged Cepec to “work as hard as you can for what you want and learn to recognize when a job isn’t fulfilling,” she added.

Karen Shakoske ’95 said she has been impressed by the maturity, curiosity and preparedness of the Allegheny students she has met, including those she spoke with during the Career Conversations event. “As a first-generation college student, I was always extremely grateful for the opportunity to connect with Allegheny alumni as I embarked on my own career path,” Shakoske said. “It’s my honor now to return that favor to today’s students.”

Fitch, the director of career education, said he is excited to build on the success of the Career Conversations event by hosting additional virtual programs that connect students and alumni.

Added event participant Tim Downing ’85: “The students I chatted with were just amazing and so engaged. I look forward to participating in another program like this in the future.”

The Allegheny Career Education and Institutional Advancement Offices thank the following alumni for their participation in this pilot effort:

  • Juwan Campbell ’17
  • Dan Donahoe ’11
  • Tim Downing ’85
  • Carmen Ramsey Ellington ’86
  • Bethany Gigante Eppig ’10
  • Larry Hailsham Jr. ’15
  • Maritza Hernandez ’13
  • Xun Li (X) ’09
  • Caitlin O’Brien-Rice ’10
  • Karen Shakoske ’95
  • Evan Von Leer ’05
  • Greg Ward ’94

Allegheny is working on a number of efforts to connect students and alumni for career advice and mentoring, including launching a new platform, Gator2Gator, to facilitate these powerful and valuable interactions. We look forward to communicating about them, and how to get involved, in the months to come.