Although Swarthmore may sometimes feel like an escape from reality, it is an escape that only lasts about four years. Once that time is up most of us are forced out into the “real world,” where some students may find themselves lost and unsure how to proceed. Having a network of trusted individuals, all sharing the same invaluable and formative experience of attending Swarthmore College, can make this unknown a bit more familiar.
Despite its relatively small size, Swarthmore has a flourishing global alumni network consisting of people from all types of industries and areas of study. Alumni are not only valuable for the insights they can provide into their respective specializations, but for who they are as people. While the pandemic has expanded our experience in navigating virtual connections, be it through Zoom alumni panels or speaker talks, we should not lose sight of how important sharing a physical space can be. To better bolster the creed of Swatties helping Swatties, the college ought to provide more opportunities for network among alumni and current students.
There are a myriad of ways Career and Alumni Services working in tandem can help facilitate meaningful connections among Swatties new and old: smaller-scale organizing of cocktail parties and mingling games, lighthearted networking, regional gatherings, exhibit tours, and career development panels.
These face-to-face interactions are not only more enjoyable for the participants but are also socially favorable in building lasting and impactful relationships that have the potential not only to support career paths but life journeys. The chance of achieving such strong connections is also key to opening students and recent graduates to avenues of employment in their desired career fields. Alumni, especially well-established older graduates, are likely to be their younger counterparts’ best opportunity to begin building their professional careers as positions enable them to leverage their own rigorous Swarthmore education to qualify the experiences of their successors.
With all this in mind, it is clear that Swarthmore’s use of the alumni network and Career Services is woefully underused. The student populace should expect more from Swarthmore to vitalize such possibilities. As of now, the college is limited in its offerings for alumni resources; most of what we can find is over the internet, and even that is largely pushed aside in favor of investing energy into the Swarthmore Bulletin and on-campus gatherings, such as Garnet Week and class year reunions. Beyond what little is provided by the college, alumni are mostly left to their own devices to organize regional and large-scale networking events. Such important networking events continue to remain unmaterialized and will likely remain so unless the college begins playing a larger role in supporting and enhancing alumni networks.
There is only so much alumni can do on their own. It would be beneficial for everyone for the college to invest more time in forming greater connections with its alumni network, as its prestige and power will only accumulate in the long run and enrich the lives of new and old graduates in the process.