The merits of a school’s alumni association may not always factor into your selection process when choosing a university, but having access to a quality graduate support system can be a valuable asset to the development of your social and professional network during your time in school and beyond.
At Arizona State University, our alumni association shares the culture of community and innovation that informs the student experience on campus and through ASU Online. We have thriving chapters in more than 40 U.S. cities and over 35 countries, opening up unique opportunities to build meaningful connections with other Sun Devils across the globe. These organizations and events aren’t just reserved for graduates either. Current students, both online and on campus, have access to the association and its resources, along with faculty and friends of the university, as well as outside businesses and organizations that support the school in various ways.
“Our role is to connect with the nearly 500,000 Sun Devils and provide a number of services to them,” says Tracy Scott, Director of Marketing Communications with the ASU Alumni Association. “Everything from networking opportunities, travel programs, events and robust chapter networks all over the country.”
Career Development and Mentorship
The structure of the ASU Alumni Association is such that members have the potential to offer as much to their chapters as they have to gain. For example, grads are encouraged to share their experiences in the professional sector with current students, lending their ground-level perspective on what challenges and opportunities may lie ahead in the job search process and in the workplace. Along with their personal stories, these members are often able to provide additional resources to qualifying students in the form of internships or access to industry-specific networking opportunities. In some cases, recommendations are even made to companies looking to recruit new talent, which can be mutually beneficial.
“We’ve connected with Sun Devils who are successful in their jobs to provide topical information on how to navigate the employment process,” says Justin Finnerty, Director of Alumni Career Services. “It’s a win-win situation, because the alum is able to do a service for their organization, and at the same time they’re giving information and advice back to our fresh alums with their job searches.”
The Sun Devil Network
The importance of networking to your overall professional development is nothing new. However, social media has added a new component to the process of meeting, connecting and engaging with peers, industry leaders and employers. While it may be easier than ever to find important people in your field on Facebook or LinkedIn, technology doesn’t replace the need for traditional networking and communication skills to build genuine connections with people who are willing to become personal resources for the development of your career.
The ASU Alumni Association helps graduates make connections in person - not only through local events hosted by individual chapters, but also through a new resource designed for connecting current students and recent graduates with seasoned alumni wanting to offer mentorship.
“We are currently in the build-out phase of ‘The Sun Devil Network,’ our new mentoring platform,” Finnerty says. “Our goal is to get 500 [experienced] alumni populated into this database for both our current students and fresh graduates to be able to connect with.”
More than just another platform through which to meet and greet, the Sun Devil Network is designed to match students with mentors who can continue teaching skills relevant to each individual’s personal needs. Whether these students are looking for general tips on how to build stronger professional relationships, or have questions specific to their industry or career goals, the platform can cater to their needs by leveraging alumni around the world who want to give back to their university community.
“Mentoring can be done virtually,” Finnerty explained. “Once they have populated their profile into the Sun Devil Network our students can access this system 24/7. They can review that database and reach out to the mentors as they find people who have either the experiences or the degrees that are of interest to them.”
The focus is on post-graduation needs, including resume-writing, job fairs and recruiting events, mock-interviews and other skill sets that are helpful in the search to find the right employer, but which aren’t always a part of the academic experience.
A Resource for Both Work and Play
For all the focus on employment and career development, the alumni association also continues to be an outlet for celebrating ASU culture and traditions through more casual meetups. In Arizona, tailgate parties are a staple during football season. Here again, the fanfare isn’t reserved for those within driving distance of Sun Devil Stadium. Active chapters of full of ASU sports fans extend from coast to coast, offering a number of locations for students and grads to be part of game day celebrations and other gatherings.
“We know that while many Sun Devils stay in Arizona, many others leave to take a great job somewhere else - their home may be in another country,” Scott says. “So we have a chapter network that keeps Sun Devil Nation alive. Our chapters are domestic and international, so while we may not get football games in other countries, we do have a lot of opportunities for those Sun Devils to connect.”
Alumni chapters are also known to offer more than a friendly crowd on game days. Graduates who relocate often find that members of their local alumni community are ready to help them get acclimated to their new surroundings - from tips on local food and entertainment to suggestions on healthcare providers and school zones.
A Lifetime of Support
Whether personal or professional, the sense of community inspired by the members of the ASU Alumni Association has helped to turn the shared bond of attending Arizona State University and ASU Online into a platform for peer-to-peer assistance. It’s a network that students and graduates of all ages, backgrounds and life stages have the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from.
“We find that many of [the members] join because they want to give back to their alma mater and demonstrate that Sun Devil pride,” Scott says. “With all that we offer there are many ways to plug back in, and the reasons for staying connected are just as diverse. Utilize us, whether it’s for networking, job placement, student recruitment, football game parties, giving back to the community - you name it! You are now a Sun Devil for life. Whatever you need, turn to your ASU Alumni Association.”