Once an Ole, always an Ole. Every time a student interacts with St. Olaf alumni, it grows apparent that Oles don’t ever leave the Hill behind. Not only are alumni proud to have graduated from St. Olaf, but they are also thrilled to lend a helping hand to current students interested in learning about career possibilities, regardless of which fields the students wish to explore.
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, 110 alumni and parents, 150 students and 17 St. Olaf staff members gathered at the Minneapolis Club to participate in an event connecting students thinking about a career in business with St. Olaf alumni working in the field. Designed based on the model of Ole Law, the event included networking time and “pop-up panelists,” which involved alumni sharing stories of their paths during and after St. Olaf.
Lynn Anderson ’75, Tom Nelson ’69 and a team of around 30 St. Olaf alumni, otherwise known as the Steering Committee, planned and directed this event. Its purpose was to enable students to participate in career discernment, make connections and see Oles succeed in their own plans and careers. A St. Olaf education prepares students for a wide range of careers, and an event like Ole Biz demonstrates to students the myriad of ways they can use their liberal arts degrees.
Branden Grimmett ’03, director of the Piper Center for Vocation and Career, explained that Ole Biz provided an opportunity that goes beyond traditional networking. The event allowed students to leave the Hill and see Oles succeeding in careers they may be thinking about pursuing.
“Ole Biz is a window to alumni working in business to show that it can be done,” Grimmett said. It provided an outlet for students to articulate what it is that they want to do after college. The event was to able to dispel the myths of networking as it fostered an atmosphere where students could converse with alumni, seeking advice for how to move forward with their aspirations.
Students responded to the event with overwhelmingly positive feedback. According to attendee Brittany Murphy ’15, “Being able to speak with alumni opened my eyes to the fact that Oles truly care about helping other Oles. After hearing our goals and questions, they were more than enthusiastic about giving insight regarding various career options.”
Another attendee, Evan Quinnell ’14, agreed. “It was encouraging to meet Ole grads that are successful and passionate about their careers. They were genuinely interested in us as current Oles, and it is evident that they want to see us succeed as well,” he said.
Before the event, the Piper Center prepared students by sending them a networking guide outlining key points to ensure a successful evening. Additionally, the Center provided business cards to the student attendees, an idea proposed by Nelson. Students were then able to exchange contact information with the alumni in order to stay in contact following the event.
The networking doesn’t stop at Ole Biz. According to Grimmett, the Piper Center has created a mechanism where all students will be able to order business cards by paying a small fee and picking them up from the Print Center. Additionally, students have been receiving the Piper Center Weekly, which is just a sample of the many opportunities offered to Oles regarding upcoming employers and graduate schools on campus, jobs and internship fairs, skill building workshops and deadlines for internships, jobs and fellowships.
The Piper Center’s website, which can be found at http://www.stolaf.edu/pipercenter/, has 300 job and internship postings each day, including a healthy spread of opportunities in the arts, sciences, humanities and social sciences. All one has to do is log on to access these opportunities. Regardless of a student’s major or geographic interest, the network gives them relevant opportunities easily accessible at their fingertips. Likewise, students have access to the Alumni Online Directory, which has contact information for thousands of alumni who are eager to help fellow Oles in pursuit of networking.
Anderson recommended that students use the Piper Center as a starting point for networking opportunities. She advised, “Use the Ole connections! Oles are happy to talk to Oles they don’t know – and help Oles they don’t know. The connection is St. Olaf.”
Grimmett shared that Ole Biz will be an annual event to continue connecting students and alumni. Additionally, the Piper Center is working alongside alumni to create another event – one that will connect students interested in health professions with alumni working in the field. Relevant occupations would range from medicine, nursing, physical and occupational therapy, mental health, social work, music therapy, health policy, the business side of health care and more.
St. Olaf alumni are eager to help students in any way that they can. Ole Biz is just one example of the countless initiatives alumni have taken to help all who have shared the privilege of spending their college career on the Hill. Thousands of helpful alumni are simply one conversation away.