PROGRAMMING RELIES HEAVILY ON ALUMNI INVOLVEMENT
Both Marshall and Tuck maintain programs that match up students and alumni, along with setting the stage for alumni responsibilities to come. At Marshall, Gasper notes, he participated in a one-on-one program with an alumni mentor. In addition, he attended an in-person event that brought all of these mentors together – a moment where Gasper says he could “tangibly see the strength of the Trojan family and how much everyone bought into it.” At the same time, Gasper signed up for other events, where alumni would fly in from all over the country to help coach students.
“Over the two years, I had countless phone conversations, in-person meetings, and just mentorship chats that really crystallized where I wanted to go in my career and how I could set myself up to be successful at the next level,” Gasper states.
MBA alumni contribute to their alma maters in other ways too. At Tuck, alumni are welcome to speak in classes, a chance for students to pick up real world practice advice. They are also included in educational activities, such as speaking at the school’s vaunted Private Equity Conference – where alumni traditionally stick around for cocktails and dinner with students. Considering Tuck’s remote locale, the high response rate to such invitations is testament to the lasting bond between the school and its alumni.
OPPORTUNITIES TO STEP INTO ALUMNI ROLES AS STUDENTS
Sometimes, alumni are intent on leaving their own mark too. In 2011, Ziemniak began working with an alum from Ernst & Young, who advocated for a 24-hour internal case competition at Marshall. Sure enough, the competition turned into a boon for the school. “Now, we have this giant pipeline of students who are funneling into EY,” Ziemniak raves. “The original student is still involved and now has other alumni helping with the planning. He has created countless opportunities for our students by virtue of that competition.”
The programs also offer opportunities that condition students to reflexively give back. At Tuck’s Admitted Students Weekend, for example, students run the show, even opening their homes up to candidates to stay overnight and enjoy dinner together. During orientation, this servant leadership is underscored by a community project that takes students out of the Tuck “bubble” to work with a local nonprofit. A cornerstone event would be February’s Tuck Gives, an auction where students help support peers who are going into non-profit or socially-focused summer internships. The donations are often service-related, such as choreography or workout training. In the end, they serve a larger purpose.
“These events are a reflection of the kind of community of giving that we have,” Masland notes. “They give students practice – or create reps so to speak – of helping out others in the Tuck community so when they become alums it just comes natural.”
ALUMNI TAKE IT UPON THEMSELVES TO HELP
That means alumni often don’t need an ask to help. Take Marshall, where Hollywood is just 30 minutes from campus (in good traffic). However, entertainment is also a referral-based industry says Ziemniak. That means it is imperative to get students in front of the right people. Even more, the industry defies the traditional MBA hiring cycle, driven instead by just-in-time hiring. That’s why Marshall alumni often take it upon themselves to reach out to the school to find out which students are still available.
“A lot of the time, it is our young alumni who are a lot closer to the process – and more familiar with the anxiety that comes with searching for a job at graduation,” Ziemniak observes. “They will reach out to their networks and put our students in contact with the right people. There are many jobs that have come out of there. Our alumni have helped our students get jobs with Hulu, NBC, Dreamworks, eBay – a whole host of folks in LA.”
The Trojan Network also flexes its muscles in the finance sector, seemingly relishing its underdog status. Ziemniak admits that landing a banking job in New York can be “challenging” for students operating out of the West Coast. Marshall’s banking alumni understand that too, which is why they step up and bring their A-Game when a fellow Trojan is in need.
TUCK STUDENT REACHES OUT TO FORTUNE 500 CEO ALUM…AND LANDS A JOB
“Every year, we have a small and mighty group of students who are interested in working in New York and our alumni are incredibly helpful to them,” Ziemniak adds. “They will always pick up the phone, always take a meeting – in New York and San Francisco too. They are willing to host students for company info sessions or willing to come to networking mixers. They’ll drop everything to be there.”
Gasper experienced this same responsiveness when he was searching for a job. Luckily, he was paired up with a mentor named Ken Perlman, who was a partner with Kotter International at the time. Although Gasper didn’t intend to pursue the type of consulting where Kotter specialized, Perlman was happy to go above-and-beyond to help him find an organization and role that fit his lifestyle and goals. “Ken didn’t benefit from mentoring me aside from giving back to the Trojan Network. Looking back five years later, I’m really happy with the decision I made. His advice really helped make it.”
Connections matter at Tuck too – and Bryan Cory (’14) is a case in point. He was enterprising enough to reach out to Eric Spiegel, the CEO of Siemens North America at the time and a Tuck board member. Turns out, fortune favors the brave. Spiegel returned his call and Cory eventually joined the firm in the venture capital group. “It was just one of those situations where a very talented Tuck student reached out and an alum picked up the phone,” says Masland. “It just came together pretty organically.”
TUCK GRAD’S MISSION: ‘IT’S OK TO BE DIFFERENT’
Gasper is already following in Spiegel’s footsteps. Since graduating five years ago, he has returned to campus a half dozen times to coach, speak, mentor, and conduct mock interviews. “I’m constantly, bumping into my peers from my class and classes later,” he acknowledges. “Now I’m seeing it from the other side. I do feel such a responsibility to the Trojan Family from what I’ve gotten and it’s exciting to be in a position to give back.”
Toews is already shouldering her alumni responsibilities at Tuck. A co-chair of three clubs – Net Impact, Entrepreneurship, and Volunteer – Toews is busy pulling together resources, details, and contact information on the treks she helped organize to make life easier on next year’s club leaders. Currently, she plans to return to the Bay Area to work in education management or possibly venture philanthropy – non-traditional avenues for MBAs to pursue. This choice has informed how she hopes to help Tuck MBA students in the future.
“It’s really important for me to let Tuckies know that it’s OK to follow different paths than most people,” she explains. “Many people come in wanting to do one thing and end up doing something else because it is what their classmates are doing or they see those companies on campus. I want to find a way to let them know to stay their course. It is viable to work at a nonprofit or impact. There are some prestigious and well-paying roles in education and social impact sector that people just don’t know about. I want to deliver that message to people.”
Based on early returns, Gasper and Toews are more than ready to carry the torch given to them by fellow alumni. It comes with big responsibilities, says Ziemniak, but even greater rewards.
“I can’t speak more highly of our alumni. Not matter what the ask is, they are always willing to do what they can. They were once students – and they once had someone help them. It is really a paying it back mentality. They all know it is their responsibility. Once you do it, it’s contagious because there is something so personally fulfilling about being able to help someone in that sort of way.”