Building a bright future
Few people know Mines better than its alumni, acting as the connective tissue that seamlessly links the university’s past, present and future. Their presence on campus and interconnected relationships with the global Oredigger community stand as a defining feature of the Mines experience, fostering robust connections, innovative collaboration and philanthropic support that are vital to guaranteeing Mines’ vibrant future.
We asked Melanie Westergaard ’87, newly elected as the Mines Alumni Board’s president, about the role alumni will play in Mines’ future, particularly as the Oredigger community celebrates a milestone year and looks ahead to where the university is headed next.
Mines Magazine: What are the big goals the Alumni Board is focused on this year, and how will they help strengthen the Mines community?
Melanie Westergaard: Our three key goals are to:
- Create future Mines alumni by encouraging potential students to commit to Mines.
- Build and develop engaged Mines alumni by complementing the signature student experience while at Mines.
- Sustain and foster engagement of Mines graduates by offering networking, connection and development opportunities.
Specific pillars include stewarding the student to alumni transition, continuing to support and grow our special interest groups and affinity programs, and furthering lifelong learning and development for alumni.
MM: We talk a lot about the concept of “legacy” at Mines. What does this legacy mean to you, particularly through an alumni lens?
Westergaard: To me, legacy is how we carry on the Mines name, reputation and traditions as leaders across the Mines community—professionally, technically and socially. Some examples include involvement in continuing education and development opportunities, such as professional organizations, interest groups, classroom and panels; volunteering; participating philanthropically; mentoring; and supporting Mines athletics.
MM: As we celebrate Mines’ 150th anniversary this year, we are reflecting a lot on Mines’ past but also looking to where we’re headed next. What role do alumni play in Mines’ future and supporting the school’s continued success?
Westergaard: We embody the Mines brand by ensuring that Mines is a top-of-mind and first-choice university now and in the future. We do this by assisting with outreach to attract future students, by demonstrating career/professional achievement and supporting existing, as well as new, areas of knowledge as employers.
MM: What value do Mines alumni bring to campus—why should they get involved, either on campus or with other Orediggers in their local communities?
Westergaard: Alumni bring immense value in a number of ways. First, alumni can offer technical support, mentorship, give guest lectures and serve on panels. Second, they can share business experience through Career Center events and offer program support, career planning and professional advice. And finally, their presence on campus promotes Mines’ affinity through their visibility and involvement in programs and events. Alumni can enable students to see what is possible with a Mines education by sharing their professional paths, career direction and success stories.
MM: Alumni involvement often spans various activities. What are some of the ways alumni can connect and foster stronger connections with the Oredigger community while making a lasting impact on students and other alumni?
Westergaard: There is no shortage of ways in which alumni can connect and foster connectivity across the Oredigger community. My personal involvement has modulated over the years to fit with what I can offer, what I value and what is most needed. My initial reconnection with Mines on a formal level was hosting an “E-Days ’Round the World” event while living in Scotland. From there, it evolved into mentoring, serving on a number of panels, sharing my career story in the classroom, giving talks on interviewing skills and offering career and recruitment advice, to becoming a director on the Mines Alumni Board in 2017 and most recently, elected as the board’s president.
There are numerous opportunities for us to connect to the broader Mines community—it is simply a matter of determining our interests and desired impact. A few opportunities that come to mind are:
- Join your local M Club and regularly meet up for social events with other Orediggers in your area.
- Share your expertise on campus by giving a technical talk, serving on a panel, becoming a professor of practice or industry advisor and more.
- Attend welcome parties in your city to connect with incoming and current Mines students and celebrate the Oredigger spirit before the academic year begins.
- Volunteer at signature events with opportunities such as weighing rocks and cheering on new students at the annual M Climb, helping with Oredigger Camp or engaging with students at the senior barbeque, to name a few. We have a volunteer platform at volunteer.mines.edu that makes finding the right opportunity easy.
- Support Mines Athletics or help or advise one of Mines’ 160+ student organizations.
- Join an alumni interest group, such as Aerospace, Women of Mines, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, or start a new one.
- Engage with an alumni affinity program, such as the Mines Black Alumni Network, the Mines Veterans Alliance, the Former Football members, among others.