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Long Use

Classmates (2009) Jerrod Howlett (left) and Brad Flaugher made a K catch during a recent trip to Key West.

Classmates (2009) Jerrod Howlett (left) and Brad Flaugher made a catch during a recent trip to Key West.

One of the most frequently lauded characteristics of a Kalamazoo College education is the longevity of its usefulness.  “More in four, more in a lifetime” is a promise and reality for many K alums whose strong academic foundations and the personal networks created at K have paid dividends decades after leaving the Arcadian Hill.

But what about K’s value in those first few years after receiving a diploma? For an ever-expanding group of recent grads, like classmates (2009) Brad Flaugher and Will Dickson, Kalamazoo connections have been invaluable from day one. In addition to being classmates, the two share an undergraduate major (economics and business) and study abroad program (London, England).

The Worst of Times

In 2010, after earning his master’s degree in economic history at the London School of Economics (LSE), Brad planned to return stateside and find a job in finance.  Unfortunately, the timing was not fortuitous. Facing the gale force headwinds of the worst American financial crisis since the Great Depression, Brad wanted to land in an industry that simply wasn’t hiring.  According to Will, the market was “absolutely atrocious . . . probably the worst time ever for new hires.”

Luckily for Brad, Will had just the opportunity that Brad needed—his own.  After beating the odds himself in 2009 to secure a job with the Minneapolis-based hedge fund Walleye Trading, Will opted to pursue a graduate degree in accounting at the University of Texas.  Upon his departure from Walleye, Will recommended his classmate to take his place.

Will remembers “[Walleye] was a good opportunity for me, but to be honest, Brad was probably better suited for the position,” given his background in computer science. Because of Will’s endorsement and his own acumen in a competitive interview process, Brad was hired at Walleye as an options trader and programmer.

Paying it Forward

Brad later left Walleye. No worries, his K professional networking tree has continued to grow. Former classmates have become colleagues, and other K grads have turned to him for assistance in finding early breaks in their careers.

In 2014, while working to launch Redcurrent, a Twin Cities tech start-up, Brad reached out to computer science major Colin Alworth ’07, wondering if his fellow K graduate would join Redcurrent as a software developer.  There was a “full-circle” dynamic at work here: years earlier, just before Brad decided on graduate school at LSE, Colin had offered him a job as a developer. At Redcurrent Brad was happy to return the favor and bring a talented K grad on board.  Colin, who studied abroad in Madrid, continues to work at Redcurrent today.

Meanwhile Andrew Mickus ’12 (an interdisciplinary studies major who studied abroad in Caceres, Spain) credits Brad with helping him secure an internship at a London hedge fund, an experience that served as a catalyst for Andrew securing a position as a financial modeler at Fannie Mae.  “Brad had an amazing willingness to ‘pay it forward,’” writes Andrew.  “And he totally let me crash on his couch for at least a week in London.”

Now a senior engineer for AuDigent, an analytics-based digital advertising company, Brad works closely with another K grad, classmate and computer science major Jerrod Howlett ’09, who works for Google, Inc. Among other responsibilities, Brad purchases advertising for AuDigent’s music-industry clients, and “Jerrod makes me look good,” Brad laughs.  “It’s great having an ‘inside guy’ at Google.”

A Much More Helpful Community

Reflecting on the significant role of K connections in the first few years of his career, Brad suggests that “it’s kind of crazy” how it’s unfolded. It’s not “that alumni just swoop in” with jobs gifted from on high. Instead, Brad feels he has organically developed fantastic career connections through his K network. “It’s turned out pretty well for me,” he says.

And Will, who currently works as a managing director of an investment firm in Detroit, is effusive in his praise for K alumni and their willingness to go the extra mile for their fellow Hornets.  “With [the University of] Texas there’s a huge network everywhere, but no one returns calls or emails. With K it’s a much smaller community, but it’s a much more helpful community.”

NOTE: The College’s Center for Career and Professional Development provides alumni various ways to network with each other and with students. And the Alumni Directory is a great tool for alumni to keep in touch. Check out the directory and update your profile.

Happy Hour Cheers

I’ve been lucky enough to find Kalamazoo College in three different cities—Minneapolis, Kalamazoo, and Ann Arbor—thanks to the Hornet Happy Hour events.

Hornet Happy Hour Kalamazoo Hornets included (l-r): Andrew Miller ’99, Grace Miller (anticipated class of 2038!), Alex Werder ’15, Nick Beam ’14, Courtney Read ’06 and Rudi Goddard ’13.

Hornet Happy Hour Kalamazoo Hornets included (l-r): Andrew Miller ’99, Grace Miller (anticipated class of 2038!), Alex Werder ’15, Nick Beam ’14, Courtney Read ’06 and Rudi Goddard ’13.

Hornet Happy Hours happen quarterly (the fourth Wednesday of January, April, July and October), hosted at a local bar or restaurant, and serve as an opportunity to meet and network with other Kalamazoo College alumni.

The connections I’ve experienced at these short-and-sweet gatherings have made a difference. After graduating from K in 2012, I set off to the heart of the Amazon, where I taught English for the French Ministry of Education in French Guiana. At the end of my contract, I found myself back home in Minnesota pondering my next steps.

There I received a message from K’s alumni relations department regarding a Hornet Happy Hour hosted in Minneapolis. I attended the event, hosted by Kate Thomas ’06, at the Nomad World Pub. I saw the K flag at the end of a table, and I was greeted with smiling faces and inquisitive conversation. Most K graduates have some wisdom to impart and some great adventures to share.

At the Nomad I met Maggie Kane ’13, an English major. We started talking about life after Kalamazoo College and I mentioned my interest in graduate school. Maggie said both of her parents held master’s degrees in public policy from the University of Minnesota, and that sounded like a field that aligned with my interests. The next week I met with Matt Kane and Liz Conway at Gigi’s cafe, their local favorite in Uptown Minneapolis. The couple was eager to talk about their diverse experiences in the policy field, and our conversation influenced my decision to apply to public policy graduate programs. I am now in my first year at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

More recently I attended an October Hornet Happy Hour in Ann Arbor, hosted by Alexandra Hayward ’13. I met Cyrus Jadun ’10 and Mynti Hossain ’05, both of whom had graduated from the policy program at the Ford School and currently work for Mathematica Policy Research.

Last year 412 people attended 64 different Hornet Happy Hour events. The program began in New York City; Erin Mazzoni ’07 is one of its architects. She and a group of young K grads gathered on a monthly basis to connect, catch up and find familiarity with the Big Apple. Mazzoni contacted Sass Havilar, events planner in the alumni relations department, to share her enthusiasm about the success of the informal happy hour events in New York.

“The idea of an official College Hornet Happy Hour event definitely started off organically. Why not invite others to get together?” said Mazzoni. In June of 2011 the first official “Kalamazoo Hornet Happy Hour” occurred in New York City.

According to Mazzoni, “We continued to meet (now formally) on a monthly basis, and we had pretty good turnouts, from brand new grads to longtime retirees. Some months we had 30 alumni, other months just five, but no matter the number, we always had a good time. You always have something in common and something to talk about.”

For more than a year the New York group met at the Brass Monkey, owned by alumna Marisol de la Rosa ’97. “Marisol was very generous,” said Mazzoni. “It’s special to have a K grad open up space for us.”

Mazzoni and the alumni relations department teamed up with class agents around the country to add events in Kalamazoo, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington D.C.  And last year Hornet Happy Hours happened in 25 cities: Albuquerque, Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Houston, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Las Vegas, Madison, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland (Oregon), San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Traverse City and Washington D.C..

“At almost every Happy Hour there are business cards passed around,” said Mazzoni. “These connections can be life-changing. At one Happy Hour in New York, I met Marc Reeves ’93, who was supportive and instrumental in helping me find my current position at Under Armor.”

Mazzoni hopes Hornet Happy Hour will expand into new spaces and gatherings (both formal and informal) in order to get others engaged. “Last year, we met an alum in a play in the city, and a group of us went to see her performance. In January, I hosted a brunch for K women in Washington, D.C. [Mazzoni’s new residence since her career change]. I hope other alumni will make and take advantage of new opportunities to gather with fellow grads,” said Mazzoni. Since her relocation to Washington D.C., Dion Bullock ’12 has hosted the New York City events.

For Mazzoni, the K flag is a great table marker and a symbol of the College’s ubiquity. “The flag’s become a tradition,” said Mazzoni. “Kim Aldrich ’80, director of alumni relations, gave me my first K flag and I got one for Dion when he took over in New York.”

Hornet Happy Hour events rely on alumni to serve as hosts in their cities. Interested? Please contact Sass Havilar at 269.337.7283 or shavilar@kzoo.edu.

You can find dates, locations and times for alumni events on the Alumni Relations calendar of events page. When you attend an event, take pictures and post comments using the hashtag #HornetHappyHour. You can also tag @KCollegeAlumni on Twitter.

And speaking of connections, the Alumni Association Executive Board (AAEB) recently launched an improved Kalamazoo College Alumni Directory. Now it’s easy to search for K alumni in any city. Among other features, the directory includes a map view, vCard download, email enhancements, and the ability to sync a LinkedIn profile. It’s a great place to start if you host a gathering in your area!