by Jane Parikh
When Kalamazoo College students march down the Quad and accept their diplomas each June, they also receive membership in the extensive network of “K” alumni.
During Fall Quarter 2010, the College’s Center for Career and Professional Development plugged into this alumni network during the first of two scheduled Professional Development Institutes (PDI) for students wanting to get a jump start on post-graduate plans.
Each PDI engages alumni and other friends of the College in two days of events aimed at helping Kalamazoo students consider and prepare for life after “K.” Through workshops and formal and informal discussions, students meet with alumni and business leaders, and make connections designed to help them find and secure employment opportunities.
During a panel discussion that concluded day-one of the Fall PDI, four alumni put forth a very strong case for the value of a Kalamazoo education. They spoke about experiences they had as “K” students that helped lay the groundwork for their successes in the working world.
“You have no idea how willing alumni are to open their networks to ‘K’ students,” said Douglas Steel ’80, Ph.D., chief scientific officer for U.S. Bioremediation, Inc., headquartered in Salt Lake City. “Whether you realize it or not, you’ve acquired a unique skill set. You’re not going to listen to old people who say ‘That can’t be done.’”
As an example, Steel mentioned fellow “K” classmate Larry Bell ’80, founder of Bell’s Brewing Company in Kalamazoo. “Larry Bell didn’t major in beer-making while at ‘K,’” Steel said. “But, he is proof of what can happen if you have an idea and don’t let the details bog you down.”
Regg Wilson ’70 encouraged students to always emphasize finding their passion. He said this was one of the most important lessons he took away from his time as a student. “One of the great assets ‘K’ gave to me was the knowledge that I could master something in 10 weeks,” said Wilson, founder of Cultivating Your Legacy and president of Los Angeles Philanthropic Advisors Network. “You can be fearless in a relatively short amount of time.”
Surviving the rigors of 10-week quarters and gaining the confidence that goes along with that are valuable commodities in a global economy that demands flexibility and a strong knowledge base. PDI panelists agreed that “K” graduates are thought of very favorably by leaders in the public and private sectors because of their ability to think in a critical and sometimes unconventional manner.
Kalamazoo County Eighth District Court Judge Anne Blatchford ’82 told students that she left “K” a much stronger and more confident individual because of the challenges issued to her throughout her experience with her professors and advisors. She recalled one particularly grueling episode when her SIP (Student Individualized Project) advisor had her rewrite her resume more than a dozen times in preparation for
"One of the great assets 'K' gave to me was the knowledge that I could master something in 10 weeks. You can be fearless in a relatively short amount of time."her project. He then had her tell him what it takes to represent Kalamazoo College.
When he felt Blatchford was ready, he allowed her to begin work on her SIP. “I had to earn that respect,” Blatchford said. “I learned from that experience that I had the tools I needed, and he showed me how by making me do it. It’s that belief in yourself that you leave ‘K’ with.”
This is what gave Harry Garland ’68 the courage to leave a teaching position at Stanford University to start his own company. Garland now is chairman of Garland Actuarial, LLC , and Agile Sciences, Inc., based in San Francisco.
“Anybody who graduates from this college has tremendous capability,” Garland said. “It’s important for you to realize you have the capability to do amazing things.”
A second PDI for “K” students is scheduled for April 14-15 at the College. For more info on this and other programs sponsored by the Center for Career and Professional Development, call (269) 337-7183, or visit www.kzoo.edu/careerdevelopment.
Kalamazoo alumni (l-r) Anne Blatchford ’82, Harry Garland ’68, Douglas Steel ’80, and Regg Wilson ’70 helped students consider and prepare for life after “K” during the Fall Quarter Professional Development Institute.