In the 95 years since its founding, St. Joseph’s College has graduated tens of thousands of students, from the 14 members of the inaugural Class of 1920 to the most recent Class of 2011, more than 1,350 strong.
These generations of alumni embody the spirit of St. Joseph’s motto, Esse non videri — “To be, not to seem” — and carry the torch for the generations of students to follow. Above all, each and every student who graduates from SJC remains a valued part of the St. Joseph’s College family. And the College is committed not only to maintaining a relationship with its student, both past and present, but also to cultivating alumni leaders who will proudly represent SJC for decades to come.
Part of the College’s mission is to prepare each student for a life characterized by integrity, intellectual and spiritual values, social responsibility and service. That preparation does not end once a diploma is conferred. Graduation is not a finish line, but rather a turning point in a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship. The primary vehicles for fostering that relationship are the St. Joseph’s College Alumni Association and the Office of Alumni Relations.
A diverse and ever-growing group, the Alumni Association serves as a link between the College and its family of former students, all of whom become members automatically upon graduation. In conjunction with the Office of Alumni Relations, it sponsors programs and special events, including lectures, career networking nights and class reunions, and also provides scholarship assistance to relatives of alumni.
The Office of Alumni Relations identifies and engages more than 30,000 SJC graduates by creating opportunities for them to participate in the life of St. Joseph’s College.
Though a thriving alumni community is important for any college or university, St. Joseph’s places significant emphasis on providing programs and services to its graduates. In other words, alumni should ask not only what they can do for the College, but also what the College can do for them.
Beyond the many popular reunions, lectures, social functions and networking events, alumni are encouraged to take advantage of SJC’s career services and alumni mentoring programs. These keystone programs, which have grown steadily since their inception only a few years ago, are an integral part of the College’s effort to engage its graduates and cultivate future alumni leaders.
“It’s been an exhilarating experience to oversee the expansion of these vital new programs,” said Mary Jo Burke Chiara ’69, assistant vice president of alumni relations and stewardship.
“The alumni team on both campuses endeavors to maintain meaningful connections with our graduates through our mentoring, networking and career services programs. We want to give our alumni as much support as possible so they can achieve their career goals.”
Whether you’re searching for your first job out of college, considering a career change or navigating through the slumping job market, Alumni Career Services is available to help alumni refine their skills and gain the knowledge that they need to succeed.
The Office of Alumni Relations offers a wealth of free career resources including assistance with résumé writing, cover letters, networking, career decision-making and job search strategizing. From fall 2009 through June 2011, 214 alumni had received counseling services, not including the many alumni who attend career service-related events.
On the Long Island Campus, Alumni Relations Officer Catherine Vitucci ’04 has worked as a career counselor since November 2009. With a master’s degree in school counseling from Long Island University, she is well suited to offer the kind of personalized service that has become a hallmark of the program.
“There is a rapport right away that just happens when they know you’re a counselor,” Ms. Vitucci explained.
“A lot of people don’t know where to start on their job hunt. They don’t know how to research, they don’t know what’s out there for them, and part of my job is guiding them through the process — not really doing the work for them, but being there if they have any questions or if they need something, and I give them a jump start.”
Ms. Vitucci, who counsels alumni from both Brooklyn and Long Island, works closely with the Alumni Association and the Office of Career Development, Wellness and Disability Services to identify and reach out to alumni of all ages, offering both one-on-one assistance and group activities, including monthly networking events.
“It can be frustrating when someone’s trying to find a job and they can’t, and they have a house and they have a family,” she said. “There are all different types of people that I meet with — some people right out of college that just want to start their career, and some people who lost their jobs.
“I offer them the résumé and cover letter review, thank you letter review, I talk to them a little about having a working résumé. … We do mock interviews … because a lot of people are rusty or have never been through it before. … Maybe I’ll have a colleague sit in on a mock interview just to give it a more real feel, but it’s a safe setting because it’s just me.”
Alternative career paths are often discussed, and the program is in the process of incorporating the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment into its repertoire. MBTI is a questionnaire designed to identify personality types through the identification of basic preferences, and is often useful in career choice and development.
Many of the career services resources are available online through the Alumni Career Corner blog (careercorner.sjcny.edu), which offers helpful hints, a menu of service offerings and an Ask Career Corner feature.
The blog also provides a link to Optimal Résumé, a free tool that allows users to create, maintain and share their professional credentials online. More than 80 SJC alumni have already signed up for this service.
“I think it’s a great service to provide,” Ms. Vitucci said of the career services programs. “A lot of colleges and universities actually charge their alumni to come in for career development and we don’t charge, it’s free.”
Alumni from both campuses can inquire about upcoming events and workshops or schedule individual appointments, by contacting Ms. Vitucci at 631.678.2654 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though distinct from Career Services, the Alumni Mentoring Program (A.M.P.) is inextricably linked. The two programs work hand in hand, each one supplementing the services provided by the other.
Through A.M.P., St. Joseph’s College Alumni have the opportunity to mentor recent graduates and current SJC students. Mentors offer advice, insight and information on their chosen professions.
“To me it’s another way of networking,” said Ms. Vitucci, “but instead of going up to a stranger and introducing yourself, you at least know that you have something in common. You have St. Joe’s in common.”
Evelyn Jones ’07, an alumni relations officer and A.M.P. counselor on the Brooklyn Campus, plays matchmaker between alumni mentors and their mentees. She and other counselors attempt to match them based not only on academic degrees or professional fields, but also on interests and personalities to ensure that the relationship will work. Once paired, however, mentors and mentees are encouraged to communicate as they see fit.
“It’s whatever they make of it,” Ms. Jones explained. “I have some mentors who are at a long distance from their mentees, so their relationships are primarily by phone or email. But then I have some mentors who are located right in the city and I’ve had students go to their mentors’ jobs and shadow them.”
One such long-distance relationship is that of Brooklyn Campus junior Maureen Donohue, a child study major, and Janine Mahoney ’92, a graduate of the Long Island Campus. Ms. Mahoney is a special education teacher at Shelter Island School, 100 miles and a ferry trip away from Clinton Hill. Despite the distance, Ms. Donohue and Ms. Mahoney both praised their experience with the mentoring program. Though their relationship is primarily email-based, both mentor and mentee speak highly of their experiences.
“I wanted to get advice from a well-experienced teacher, and I wanted someone to be able to give me some connections, tips, advice as far as a job in the future,” Ms. Donohue said.
“I like the program because I am not forced to attend meetings, email a certain amount or even call. The option is totally up to me. I also like that I can talk to my mentor about what I want to learn about.”
“It’s less going out and getting a job, but moral support,” Ms. Mahoney added. “My role is to touch base with her every now and then and bounce ideas off each other.” She had also extended an invitation to Ms. Donohue to make the trip from Brooklyn to Shelter Island to shadow her at work.
This firsthand exploration is important for students and alumni who may be undecided about their ultimate career path. An A.M.P. counselor might also pair a mentee with two mentors in related fields to get a better feel for what they like and what they don’t.
“Not every experience you have is going to be something that you want to do,” Ms. Mahoney said. “You can learn from an experience by learning what you don’t want to be like. Every experience is a learning experience.”
A.M.P. counselors encourage students to take part in the mentoring program early to reap the most benefits.
“There’s no set time that they can start, but it would be ideal for them to start in their freshman year or at least when they have declared their majors and have figured out exactly what they want to do,” Ms. Jones said.
Ms. Vitucci added: “I think the key is to get them when they come in as freshmen or transfers and to get them thinking about their careers and to get them thinking about networking.”
In addition to its career-related offerings, the College offers a number of alumni benefits, including tuition discounts for SJC graduate programs and tuition grants to relatives of alumni and access to libraries, athletic centers and campus events.
Alumni are also entitled to various discounts at the College’s bookstores and through 1-800-FLOWERS, GEICO, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and several local restaurants in Patchogue and Brooklyn.
All members of the Alumni Association can stay connected through social media via the SJConnect alumni online community (alumni.sjcny.edu), Facebook (www.facebook.com/sjcnyalumni) and Twitter (twitter.com/SJCNY).
The Office of Alumni Relations has steadily expanded its reach over the past several years, and its growing staff remains committed to developing a thriving alumni-based culture on both campuses.
“What we need to do is build meaningful relationships,” Director of Alumni Relations Matthew Colson ’02 said. “We can’t just have events where people come and go.
“We want students to have a better understanding that when they’re done they don’t have to be done.”
The success of St. Joseph’s program has inspired other colleges to revamp their own alumni programs.
“Many schools look at our program as a model of a better practice,” Mr. Colson said.
“The five-year plan was to create a balanced alumni program that is engaging and service minded by building meaningful relationships and having alumni engaged in the fabric of the College. That was the plan, and that’s what we have now.”