SAA Connections event

The annual Connections is a networking event that connects students with Mines alumni. (Credit: CSMAA)

The process of passing down advice and encouragement from Mines alumni to current students is slowly but surely cementing its importance in campus culture. Events that encourage these learning opportunities allow “students to have a window into the future and an understanding of how they could potentially use their Mines degree,” says Scott Hodgson ’03. “I have seen the proverbial light bulb go on when students realize that just because they graduate with an engineering degree doesn’t mean they have to be an engineer.” And this relationship between current students and alumni is mutually beneficial. “Sharing knowledge and experience and helping students develop” proves a strong motivator for giving back to Mines, says Roxanne Skeene ’83. “Interacting with young people in any forum feels good.”

The Student Alumni Association (SAA), one of the many free clubs on campus, strives to foster opportunities to connect students and alumni. “SAA
has helped tremendously in terms of networking, career searching, and leadership development,” says current SAA president Hyung Kim (Class of ’17). “There aren’t a lot of organizations that offer this type of opportunity to students, but SAA is taking the initiative to give this unique experience to the student body.”

Spacious board rooms in the new Starzer Welcome Center now host SAA events that bring alumni and students together. A recent “Dinner and Dialogue,” consisting of a shared meal and conversation in a comfortable non-academic setting, featured advice provided by Skeene and Andy Baker ’89, who skyped in from Tobago and Kuala Lumpur, respectively, and Ben Reisinger ’11, who shared his ideas in person. Though this particular panel
discussed international work, each dinner brings a new alumni speaker with a unique perspective.

SAA Executive Team

SAA advisor Sandra Kohl (far left) with the SAA Executive team (L to R) Megha Gandhi, Hunter Chase, Hyung Kim, Sami Al-Saadawi, and Allison Keator. (Credit: Danelle Herra)

February 16, 2016, marked the fourth annual “Connections” event on campus, sponsored by the Center for Academic Services and Advising. The event features networking on a grand scale for Mines students of all class levels. The 150 participating students rotated among tables staffed by alumni from all industries and backgrounds, who provided students with a constant flow of inspiration, stories, and advice on how to succeed at Mines. “These events are tremendously valuable,” says Sarah Hodgson ’09. “So many of the students I speak with are struggling with not feeling like they belong at Mines, because they don’t want to go into an engineering field. I get to share my story about being in the same place and coming out on the other side with a graduate degree in biomedical sciences and a career in healthcare quality.”

As the SAA progresses through its fourth year, club members eagerly await the culminating networking event of the year—“Meeting of the Mines.” Planned for early April, this half-day workshop focuses on how and why connections are important and provides time for students to practice making these connections. “Mines is a great university that provides a technical education to students,” says former SAA president Diane Roher (Class of ’16) “However, there is always more to learn and tools to be gained that do not exist in a classroom, like the value of networking.”

“When I was a student, there were no programs like these—at least that I was aware of,” says Scott Hodgson. “I also don’t remember understanding the value of talking with alumni. Looking back, I would have really enjoyed having that chance.”