“On field trips to building and construction sites, we talked about what was going on and why things were constructed the way they are, which proved to be invaluable insight as I was going through classes and then later when working as a civil engineer,” Busby says. “I think ‘talking shop’ gives a glimpse of what someone has learned in the field – knowledge you usually don’t have as a student. I learned that engineering isn’t just about producing a set of plans, but about focusing on how people will utilize something and how it will make their lives better.”
Now Busby is paying that favor forward through SMU Connection, a new partnership between the Office of Alumni Relations and Engagement and SMU’s Hegi Family Career Development Center. The program links alumni mentors with University undergraduates.
As of early November, 312 Mustangs across the country have signed up as Connection volunteers.
“Through SMU Connection, alumni have an opportunity to reinforce the strength of the University by mentoring current students and passing on the passion we have for our alma mater,” says Busby.
During winter break, alumni from coast to coast will host student externs for a day of on-the-job experience. Students applied through the Hegi Center and have been matched in their preferred fields. They will spend the day “shadowing” alumni, who have the flexibility to decide how to make their time together beneficial.
The 40 students participating attended a mandatory orientation session conducted by Allison Dupuis, career coach with the Hegi Center. There are 10 first-years, nine sophomores, 12 juniors and nine seniors in the group, representing SMU’s five undergraduate degree-granting schools.
“Most of the students have never done anything like this before, so it is important that they understand how to maximize the experience,” Dupuis says. She encourages them to prepare by looking at alumni’s LinkedIn profiles, reading about their companies and developing questions based on that research.
Externships assist students in making well-informed career decisions, according to Dupuis. “I tell students that in just one day they can absorb so much that it can be truly life-changing,” she says. “They’ll have a chance to network, make important career connections and learn that they can take the initiative to create these kinds of opportunities for themselves.”
Through SMU Connection, alumni also can serve as career resources, offering advice and information throughout the school year to students interested in their professions. More than 170 alumni have committed to participate.
Dallas alumni can be part of these career-preparation activities sponsored by the Hegi Center:
- Résumania: Volunteers meet one-on-one with students to provide feedback about their résumés.
- Speed networking: During this job-focused spin on “speed dating,” students practice their interviewing skills with volunteers from various industries in a fast-paced, informal setting.
- Work abroad panel: At events designed for students interested in the global job market, alumni offer valuable information about their international experiences.
- Industry specific panel: At events centered on specific fields, such as law and education, alumni offer their perspectives on their professions.
Alumni interested in participating in SMU Connection should fill out the online form. More information is available by contacting Lindsay Scanio, SMU Connection alumni coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-768-ALUM (2586).