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What I Do for Fun

Let me be upfront about my goal: I’m trying to persuade you to be an alumni volunteer.

Volunteering column

Milo Madole of the Kalamazoo College Alumni Association Executive Board understands you have a lot of demands on your time, but he says none of those other activities is as rewarding as volunteering for the College.

Yes, I know you’re busy. You’ve got work, family, friends—a life. And if you’re like a lot of K grads, people have noticed you are a pretty capable thinker and doer, and they’ve already drafted you into volunteer roles with half a dozen organizations.

So why take on another?

Because you miss K, and you love it.

Now let’s be adults about this—being a volunteer won’t make you 22 again, or bring back those days. And sliding down the hill in front of Stetson on a caf tray (or running down it in various states of dress) is not a good look for you, I promise. But that’s not what this is about.

What volunteering will do for you is pretty great. Things like:

• Giving you a way to pay it forward to the next generation, because other alumni did the same thing for you.  If your experience was like mine—when you were confused about whether you should go to graduate school or needed to bounce ideas off someone with experience in an unfamiliar field—there was probably an alum who stepped up to the plate. For me, that was Bill Stoeri ’78, a lawyer practicing in Minneapolis who, besides giving me phenomenal life and career advice, even took me to a (very late) breakfast on the morning following my 21st birthday. If you had an alumni mentor like Bill, now you can be that person for a current student. If you didn’t, I can promise you from experience that mentorship matters.

• Providing you a way to give back to the college for the myriad fantastic experiences and opportunities to learn critical skills you use in your adult life. I learned things like leadership through LandSea, adaptability through study abroad, and writing and critical thinking from my history classes with Charlene Boyer Lewis.

• Connecting you to an amazing network. K alumni live all over the world and do all sorts of great things. (It’s the liberal arts, right?)

More than anything, though, volunteering is, simply, fun. Nearly every time I’ve sat on a Visit the Zoo panel, or talked with current students about finding internships, or hosted a Hornet Happy Hour for alumni, I’ve met amazing people with amazing ideas and passions. In the past few months alone, at various volunteer events, I have spoken with a prospective student who wanted to start a club on campus (ping pong), a fellow alum about a shared experience I can’t get enough of (study abroad in Aberdeen), and a current student about a dynamic career interest I want to help along (a student interested in human rights law and needing a connection at the ACLU).

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that it’s a joy to be involved again—to know you’re joining forces with so many fantastic people to make a difference for this place you love. So do it for K, and for yourself—and start having fun!

 

 

Being a Mentor Helps You, Too

College was a mystery for me; I knew I had to go but had no clue what it would take to thrive and finish my degree. My understanding of college came from stories from my older brother, “MTV Spring Break” videos and college classics like “Animal House.” Coming to Kalamazoo College as an out-of-state, first-generation student of color, I was eager to learn how best to navigate college life. Although there were very few men of color on campus during my first year, the ones who were served as powerful role models for me.

Dion Bullock talks about being a mentor

Dion Bullock ’12 says being a mentor is valuable because it lets you keep on learning.

Aaron Coleman ’09 is one who stepped in for me. He was into poetry and psychology and was really involved on campus. I wanted to study the same things and be a part of the same community. He’s now a rising star in poetry, in a fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis. With his latest collection, “Threat Come Close,” getting rave reviews, I got to see him when he came to New York to do a reading, and we continue to maintain our relationship no matter where we are in the world.

He helped me understand how the College worked, how to get involved in poetry and the importance of being a leader on campus. Similarly, for those of us in the Black Student Organization, he was around to talk about our issues on campus and some of the challenges of being a student of color at K.

Just by his presence, his being open to talking to me, and showing me what success could look like, he made a difference for me.

I tried to do the same thing for Mara Richman ’14, to help her as she became a leader in civic engagement and student government as well as in psychology. I met her again this past March in Budapest, where we both studied abroad. She went back to study psychology at Eötvös Loránd University and is launching what’s going to be a remarkable career. When we got together, she mentioned I was part of the reason she went to Hungary, because she saw some of the things I was able to do there.

Though that’s really gratifying, and it’s also nice to officially “pay it forward,” there’s so much more to mentoring than the good feeling you get from being altruistic. In my work as director of people and community development in the Division of Teaching and Learning at the New York City Department of Education, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to create a culture that fosters mentoring relationships. For students, it is so validating to hear from someone who’s had the same experiences they’re having, and to learn from them how to avoid the mistakes they made and how to get the most out of work and learning. When you’re a mentor, you’re providing support that students may not be able to get anywhere else, and you’re helping to ensure that another generation navigates the process of getting a degree and claiming the opportunities that will change their and their families’ lives—and make life better for everyone, including yourself.

Just as important, being a mentor can be transformative for you. Thinking about how to provide advice to someone else helps concretize your own experiences. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on what you’ve done and the decisions that you’ve made. It provides you with a narrative that can inform your thinking going forward.

That’s especially important in the context of the liberal arts, because an education like the one you get at K is all about finding the connections between seemingly unrelated subjects—in my case, poetry and organizational development—and finding ways to apply what you’ve learned to dynamic, changing situations. Talking about it with someone else opens you to insights that can be incredibly valuable.

So while being a mentor is rewarding because you’re doing the right thing, it’s also beneficial because it lets you keep on learning, as well. And that’s what we’re talking about when we say “More in a Lifetime.”

 

SuperConnectivity

irectoryArtIn the fall the Alumni Association Executive Board (AAEB) announced several improvements to the Alumni Directory.

You can now more easily: CONNECT and COMMUNICATE with classmates and friends; FIND K alumni in your area (with map view!) by searching a variety of criteria; MAKE new business connections; BE a resource to Hornet students and other alumni; and DOWNLOAD electronic contact cards to update your personal address books.

WOW! With that array of capabilities it’s not surprising that AAEB members are early adopters of the directory. Here are some of the ways some of us have used it.

I recently used the name search to find the email addresses of my former interns and download their contact cards to add right into my address book. I wanted to share some business news with them since they were a major part of building my company. But I only had their old student email addresses, outdated since their graduation. Finding their current addresses was no problem, thanks to the alumni directory.

AAEB President Alexandra (Foley) Altman ’97 spoke to a K faculty member with plans to attend a seminar in Philadelphia. Betcha former majors in that professor’s department would love to chat! So Alexandra used the directory to locate such alumni living in the Philly area and to invite them to a casual get together with the professor at her hotel.

AAEB Secretary Kirsten Browne Bradford ’92 used the new map feature to find fellow alums that studied in France and/or ran cross country—first step of a planned meet-up in the Detroit area. Kirsten wanted to find people who share a specific K experience (or two) to reminisce and make new friends.

Other AAEB members have searched for alumni to network in their field when moving to a new area. Some have applied the messaging feature to send personal invitations for Hornet Happy Hours. One member used the directory to connect with an old K roommate.

Great uses depend on great info. The Alumni Directory is as good as the information in it. Please take a moment to update your own directory entry. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1. Go to the directory at kzoo.edu/alumnidirectory and log in to your account. You can click on the “Forgot ID/Password” link if you need to retrieve your login information.

2. Select the “Update Profile” link to edit or add to the information in your profile. You can even sync your profile with LinkedIn to quickly update your information, and you can choose the level of information you share with others.

3. Click on the “Update” button at the bottom of the screen to ensure that your updates are saved.

Whenever you change locations or jobs, be sure to go back into the system and update your profile with the new information. You can even use your update visit as an opportunity to do a search of your own.

And keep the AAEB in mind. We would love to know how you have used the directory to make connections. Is there anything else we can do to make connecting with other alumni (and students) easier? Send us your story or suggestions. In the meantime, we hope you will use the directory to expand your K connections—by networking, catching up with old friends, classmates, or team members, or making yourself available to mentor students.