One of the challenges of summer 2020 was providing students with expanded opportunities for professional development at a time when they were homebound and experiencing a spate of cancelled experiences during a pandemic.

“In March of 2020, life as students knew it completely stopped,” said Tyler Wang, the Hub’s regional manager of alum and employer engagement for the central United States. “Events, graduations, internships—these typical summer experiences were cancelled. As a team, we knew this summer would look different. One of the challenges was how would we provide students with expanded opportunities for professional development as they navigated life in this unprecedented time.”

The LSA Opportunity Hub leaned into the challenge and, rather than converting existing events into a virtual format, they redesigned their program to expand opportunities for exploration and networking. The cornerstone of the project was hosting honest conversations through video conferencing with small groups of students.

Called 60 Days of Summer Connections, it enlisted 80 alums and employers to contribute more than 84 hours of time, sharing their wisdom across 51 live Q&A sessions serving approximately 845 students.

The result? Increased clarity for students about their own career goals, as well as new relationships they can leverage for future mentorship or opportunity.

“The impact of the project was also the expansion of our alum networks, which now include more diverse voices and experiences,” Wang said. “And the project really fostered honest and authentic conversations.”

Students found it helped them expand their understanding of what was possible for them and how to achieve it.

“Engaging with alums through the LSA Opportunity Hub’s Alum Connections as a rising senior in the summer really helped me clarify what career path would best suit my personality,” said Anahad Singh, an LSA student. “I was truly inspired by the diversity of perspectives on what ‘work’ should mean. Lastly, in the context of a world filled with economic distress, it was important for me to understand not only how industries evolved to the challenge but also what kind of people rose to the challenge—which truly highlighted the Michigan difference.”

Alum participants spanned the globe, signing on from locations like Los Angeles, Auckland, Detroit, Boston, Seattle, Austin, Nairobi, and Mexico City, to name a few.

Alums involved spanned industries, as well, including media, consulting, consumer goods, education, law and public policy, and more. Many discussed their own experiences navigating the 2008 financial crisis and recession, as well as getting through other major life challenges.

One participant, Mary Ellen Coe, Google’s president of global customer solutions, told students during her session the importance of remembering that alums want to support and help.

“Alums want to help you,” Coe said. “We all find it very rewarding to help you. You are great talent, and you will bring a lot of this talent and energy to the job market. So you need to reach out to us and be persistent—it is not a bother. Be respectful of our time, but be persistent because people are busy. Your persistence will show; don’t be defeated.”

Interested in learning more about participants? Visit our 60 Days of Fall Connections landing page to see the full list of past alum and employer speakers as well as who’s slated to host upcoming Alum Connection sessions.