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Hamilton students attend a Connect Team event called "How I got my CRE" in October 2022.

Hamilton College

For students, leveraging their institution’s alumni network can be easier said than done. The Connect Team at Hamilton College in New York serves as a bridge between students and graduates working in various industries. The team puts on dozens of events and works with hundreds of alumni who conduct interviews and writes a blog to create resources for their classmates.

On paper: The Connect Team is a joint operation between Hamilton’s Career Center and the advancement office’s Alumni Relations.

Students of all grades work as part of their teams, connecting to alumni from that specific industry through student-facing events and blog posts. The Career Center holds “an extensive recruitment and selection process each semester” to fill the roles, says Shauna Hirshfield, director of operations and analytics for Hamilton’s Career Center and the Connect Team supervisor.

The teams are divided by industry or topic: arts and entertainment, business, communications, education and nonprofit, finance and consulting, government and law, health care, STEM, identity, life skills, or major.

Each team puts on about six to 10 events per year, totaling close to 80 events, and coordinates 50 alumni blog posts, which target student interests like job hunting, the value of an internship or the benefits of in-person work. In total, the Connect Team reaches between 250 to 300 alumni annually through its programming and work.

The Connect Team also puts on events only for students regarding industry-specific vocabulary and how to conduct a job search or industry exploration in general.

How it works: The program started in 2016, piloting with two and a half teams of four or five students in total. Now, there are 35 Connect Team members, or about three to four students per subject.

Connect Team members are paid and work between two and 12 hours per week, depending on their role, and are hired for the semester but can work throughout the calendar year if they choose, Hirshfield says.

In their application, students indicate which teams they’re interested in, but they can change roles during recommitment each semester.

What’s different: Connecting alumni and students is not unique to Hamilton, but having a devoted team for the initiative creates greater opportunities for alumni profiling and involves students in a way that is special.

The outcomes: By utilizing student staff for its industry programming, Hamilton is accomplishing several goals, allowing students to gain real-world, hands-on experience, connect with the Hamilton alumni network themselves and learn skills for their future careers.

The events, being student planned, are also tailored to their own interests and wants in programming, helping the college gauge its student pulse, as well.

Alumni are also more eager to talk directly to students and participate in their events.

If your student success program has a unique feature or twist that you believe is worth modeling, we’d like to know about it. Click here to submit.

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