Earlier this month, as we were wrapping up this issue of Mines, an alumnus walked into Coolbaugh House looking for some help. Having gone straight from Mines to the military, he was now transitioning back to civilian life, and the process was proving more complicated than he’d expected. Employers, he said, aren’t looking for the kind of experience he’d gained in the military.
For me personally, his situation is a familiar one. My father left the British Army in the late 1970s, and he’s often spoken about how hard it was to make the switch; he’s also said how grateful he was for the professional connection that led to his next job.
Knowing how many professional connections we can provide this alumnus, I came away from the conversation with a list of actions to take, and a renewed appreciation for the value of our career services and the network of alumni who make it such a meaningful resource. My colleague, Nancy Webb, who manages the Alumni Job Center, often refers to the demand for these services, but this firsthand experience sharpened my awareness.
My interaction with this job-seeking alumnus reminded me of something George Saunders ’81 said upon accepting the Folio Prize for his book ‘Tenth of December,’ hailed as the best work of English fiction published in 2013. (You’ll find details of this remarkable honor here, which we’d cover in more detail if we hadn’t recently run a feature story about him in the fall 2012 issue.) After expressing gratitude for the award, he waxed philosophical (without losing his sense of humor): “As I’m nearing my 180th year, life is starting to seem simpler. It seems to me that the real goal here, all the distractions notwithstanding, is to develop our ability to be more sympathetic to others.” He described how, to better understand his characters, the act of writing fiction has involved ‘softening the borders between myself and other people.’ And he concluded by saying that at a time “when so much of the public discourse tells us that we are antagonistic, that we are separate, fiction and literature is a wonderful way to remind us that, actually, that’s a lie. We are not separate. We are connected, and we can actually do things within our life to become more connected.”
Expounded by poets and philosophers for centuries, these sentiments are not original. But at a time when the Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association is short-staffed and working long hours to serve our constituents, it was validating to hear an eminent alumnus articulate them in such a public forum. Within our sphere, this organization exists to build connections and community, to help weave and reinforce a sense of association, and to promote the idea that we are not separate. We are connected.
As your alumni association, we’ll continue working toward this goal, connecting alumni as they navigate job markets, sharing news, arranging networking and social events, ensuring alumni have a voice in campus affairs, and creating new opportunities for involvement.
Editor and Director of Communications
Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association