By Evelyn Julia “Judy” Lambeth ’73
Leveraging the power of Hollins’ alumnae network is major goal of the 2012 strategic plan. As stated in the plan, Hollins aspires to be recognized as “the women’s liberal arts college that best unites excellence in liberal arts education with experiential learning opportunities and strong career preparation.” The plan also says the university will use one of its strongest assets, its alumnae, “to connect students with hands-on experiences and mentoring that will enable professional and life success.”
In March 2012, a group of alumnae trustees met in New York and transformed those aspirations into concrete plans, creating the annual Career Connection Conference (C3) and the Signature internship program.
What’s distinctive about our career preparation effort is our reliance on the incredibly talented network of Hollins alumnae. For the annual career conference (this year’s, on October 24, will be our fifth), we invite 60-80 alumnae with vibrant careers back to campus. Over the course of an afternoon, students attend workshops conducted by alumnae. At the end of the day, students can meet informally with alumnae during a networking session. Many students stay connected with the alumnae they meet and receive additional mentoring. A large number of students participate, seriously and enthusiastically. What has surprised us, however, is how wildly popular the conference is with alumnae. In addition to networking with students, they relish the opportunity to network with each other.
Signature internships are those sponsored or referred by an alumna (see the list on the following pages of those offered during the 2016 J-Term). We call them curated internships because they offer exceptional opportunities with highly regarded organizations, mentoring, excellent networking potential, and substantive hands-on work. We have two major networks of alumnae, in New York City and in Washington, D.C., who are finding Signature internships and mentoring students who fill them. Our primary focus is in these two cities, but we also have some outstanding internships in other places, such as Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, and Chapel Hill. The opportunities run the gamut—businesses, nonprofits, arts and environmental organizations, social service agencies, and so on. We also provide housing and a stipend. No student is prevented from having an internship because of finances.
What started as a handful of opportunities in both places has grown in just four years to a goal of 30 internships in each city. We have impressive opportunities—Estée Lauder, Phillips Collection, American Rivers, America’s Test Kitchen, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Cleveland Playhouse, and many more. Alumnae in New York and Washington are gracious hosts for the students—they plan events and help mentor the students while they are there. For many students it is their first “big city” experience, and the challenge of learning to use public transportation may rival the learning curve of the internship.
These career support programs are having a positive impact on enrollment. Surveys of entering students show that the accessibility of the alumnae network and the opportunity to have an internship are significant factors in their decision to attend Hollins. We plan to enhance our career programs by providing additional mentoring initiatives, strengthening our networks in New York and Washington, bolstering summer internship opportunities, and expanding our career support efforts to alumnae. Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you can help us find internships, participate in C3, mentor a student, or provide financial support for our internships, you will find it exponentially rewarding. When you engage with Hollins students, you will hear their excitement, intelligence, commitment, determination, creativity, hope, compassion, humor, whimsy, and much more. Like the Hollins women who came before them, they embrace life’s gifts and challenges and champion the spirit of Levavi Oculos.
Lambeth is chair of Hollins’ Board of Trustees. She received a J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law in 1977 and over her career served as in-house counsel to three Fortune 500 companies—DuPont, ConocoPhillips, and Reynolds American.