Five years after the program’s 2008 launch, the Guilds of Kalamazoo College are a rapidly growing community of engaged professionals - apprentices and masters - connecting face-to-face and online across a wide spectrum of career clusters.  Membership in the Guilds group on LinkedIn has surpassed 1,700, including more than 1,000 K alumni. 

In January, the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) announced changes in two Guilds and the addition of two others.  The former Justice & Peace Guild was renamed the Nonprofit & Public Service Guild. The Science & Technology Guild opened in place of the Sustainability Guild, which was phased out.  Two new Guilds took wing: the Arts & Media Guild and the Education Guild. All the Guilds (now seven in number) are dedicated to fostering career connections and professional networking opportunities for current students and alumni. 

The realignment and expansion has led to a 12 percent growth in overall Guild LinkedIn membership in the last three months alone, according to CCPD Director Joan Hawxhurst. The Nonprofit & Public Service Guild has grown by 86 members, or 34 percent.

Nor is the growth solely a matter of new members.  The upsurge in posting and connecting online has been significant.  “There are new student and alumni members just about every day,” Hawxhurst says.  “There are fresh faces offering new opportunities, and we don’t need to spend much time explaining why the Guilds are worthwhile.”

Sustainability and Justice Infuse All Guilds

The CCPD remains as committed as ever to conversations about sustainability and justice across all the Guilds, says Hawxhurst.  “For example,” she adds, “we continue to work with our colleagues in environmental studies to co-host the annual Sustainability SIP Symposium, and we continue to partner with the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership (ACSJL) to address social justice issues.”

The perfusion of these important values across career paths is evident in the speaker list for last month’s Sustainability SIP Symposium.  Among the seniors presenting their sustainability-related research were student members of the Business Guild, the Law Guild, the Science & Technology Guild, and the Nonprofit & Public Service Guild.

Online and In Person

The Sustainability SIP Symposium and the annual Pre-Law Alumni Dinner are two of the larger on-campus events hosted by the Guilds.  Smaller “Passions to Professions” events allow students to meet alumni professionals during informal lunchtime conversations about the nuts and bolts of various career paths. 

During Spring Quarter 2013, the Guilds hosted or will host more than sixteen alumni on campus, with careers that include nonprofit administrator, foreign service officer, news director, investment manager, documentary film producer, and medical director.  Students appreciate the lunch time meetings with these professionals because they are flexible and informal. Students can slip in and out between classes and get practical advice and valuable connections.

The largest annual Guilds-related event is the professional networking reception co-hosted by the CCPD and the Alumni Association Executive Board on the Friday afternoon of Homecoming weekend.  Last October some 150 students, alumni, and faculty and staff gathered in the Hicks banquet hall for two hours of lively networking.  This Connection Reception is on the schedule again for fall 2013.  Alumni interested in attending should schedule travel to ensure arrival on campus by Friday afternoon, October 18.

Alumni Help Students

K alumni Guild members are very generous with their advice, their networks, and their opportunities. 

Brian Preston ’67, an experienced education administrator in Westchester, NY, joined the Education Guild in April.  “Having retired last year, I'm looking to increase the ways I can give back to K. I will enjoy sharing my years of experience in education with students and grads who have similar interests.”

Grand Rapids area attorney Jon Muth ’67 enjoyed his dinner conversation with pre-law student Kylie Meyer ’14 at a Law Guild event on campus, and he remembered her when she reached out afterward to introduce a peer.  That connection opened the door for Andrea Johnson ’15 for a two-week job shadowing experience with Muth and colleagues at his law firm last December.

Alumni also post exclusive employment opportunities for Guild members’ review. Last month Business Guild member Brad Bower ’09 posted an opening for a Game Economy Designer.  Bower serves as director of iGames at the Kalamazoo-based S2 Games Company.

Young Alumni Are Big Contributors

Some of the most active Guild members are young alumni, who became Guild members as students and now take seriously their new role as advisors.  A recent online Health Guild discussion invited alumni currently in graduate programs to share their experiences for the benefit of current students considering their options for “Life after K.”  Young K grads chimed in and encouraged students to follow up with them offline for answers and advice.

David Oliphant ’11, currently studying health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, advised seniors to “stay current on what’s going on in the healthcare arena. Healthcare is a rapidly-evolving field and it is important to be knowledgeable about key issues when you enter a graduate level program.”

Caitlin Paul ’08 is enrolled in an accelerated Nurse Practitioner program at Yale University which “attracts a diverse group of knowledgeable and well-rounded (incredibly smart) people. I took all of the pre-med requirements which was certainly helpful, but we are all encouraged to bring our diverse interests and talents outside of medical experience to the table as nurses. That part of it is very much like K to me.”

Brian Barkley ’10, a first-year graduate student in the biostatistics Ph.D. program at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, suggests “that any K student who wants to do good in the world with critical thinking, quantitative reasoning and communication skills [should] take a good look at the options in biostatistics, epidemiology, and all the other programs in public health.”

Sarah Allexan ’11 is in her first year of medical school at the University of Colorado, in the “global track,” which allows her to train health care workers during the summers in the Peruvian Amazon.  She thinks “it was really useful to take a year off after K and work as an emergency room scribe and as a research assistant at the University of Michigan.”

"There are new student and alumni members just about every day."
topics in other Guilds’ include the following:  whether and when to pursue an MBA (Business Guild); what kind of English as a second language teaching certification to seek (Education Guild); how to negotiate entry-level salary (main Guilds group).

Look Who’s Joining

The Guilds LinkedIn group gained more than 50 new members last month.  Among them:

Senior English major Brittany Worthington. After attending the University of Michigan for one year, Brittany transferred to K.  She currently works as consultant at the Kalamazoo College Writing Center. Brittany joined the Arts & Media Guild.

Grant Carey, a junior Biology and Business double major. Grant is also the Captain of the men’s basketball team.  During the summer of 2011, Grant volunteered at Bronson Methodist Hospital.  He is interested in attending medical school.  Grant joined the Business Guild and the Health Guild. 

Marc Kuniansky
, a first-year student from the greater Atlanta, Georgia, area.  Though Marc has not declared a major yet, his interests include chemistry, psychology, computer science, and photography.  Marc joined the main Guilds group.

Dia (Vinyard) Bryant
graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2004 with a B.A. in Economics.  Since then she has received a master’s degree in math education from Brooklyn College and a School Building Leader Certification from the College of St. Rose.  She currently serves as the Resident Principle at the PS/IS 266, New York City Department of Education in Brooklyn, New York.  Dia joined the Education Guild.

Ryan Gardner graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2008 with a B.A. in biology.   He is currently the LEED EBOM Coordinator at Rincon Consultants, Inc. in Goleta, California, where he is pursuing his interest in environmental services.  Ryan expects to graduate in 2014 with a Masters in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  He joined the Science & Technology Guild.  

Stephen T. Robbins
graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2005 with a B.A. in computer science, economics, and mathematics.  He continued his education and received a M.S. in computer science from Western Michigan University.  He is currently a web application developer at in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  Stephen joined the Business Guild.   

Future Growth

Eventually the College envisions another Guild, and the CCPD is seeking alumni input into careers outside the current list of Guilds.  Hawxhurst advises everyone to join the main Guilds group on LinkedIn.  “We think of the Guilds as a wide-ranging professional network, open to all careers, and each individual Guild as a subset for a specific career cluster.  Anyone in any profession who wants to be connected professionally with other alumni should join the Guilds on LinkedIn,” she suggests.  “And if you don’t find the specific Guild you need, start a discussion post asking Guild members to weigh in on what’s missing.”  The success of the recent realignment will generate more success!

Photo 1 - CCPD Director Joan Hawxhurst and alumnus Dan Minkus ’82 at a Law Guild event last Homecoming.
Photo 2 - First-year student Clare Lee gets advice from an alumnus at a Business Guild gathering.

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