Alumni pay it forward
Throughout the pandemic, School of Management Assistant Dean Laura Burgess has been impressed by the efforts of student leaders who have reached out to their peers and planned meaningful virtual student activities. As a way to reward them and provide additional leadership training during this year’s COVID-extended winter break, Burgess created a noncredit Student Leadership Certificate program, enlisting alumni involvement with the help of Laurie Cormier, University Advancement’s SOM liaison.
“There were many students in club leadership positions who put so much thought and effort into the SOM community and their classmates, despite the pandemic,” said Burgess. “I wanted to find a way to thank them with something useful, something lasting, other than just a token gift.”
Twenty graduate and undergraduate students were selected for the six week program. With Cormier’s help, Burgess formatted the curriculum to include participation in weekly alumni-led workshops on leadership-related topics, including intercultural communication, marketing and branding, and team motivation. While some topics are included in current coursework, the workshops allowed participants to focus on specific skill sets valued in the workplace.
“One of our alumni speakers talked to the students about working in virtual teams, which is extremely relevant and important right now,” said Burgess. “But all of the topics were ones that could have an immediate impact on students’ work and on future leadership roles.”
To earn the certificate, students had to attend five workshops, and complete LinkedIn Learning modules for each topic. Burgess was thrilled at the students’ commitment as well as the enthusiasm of the alumni speakers.
Kara Duffy ’03, MBA ’04 felt it was important to be involved. “I love sharing what’s happening in real life in the business world. Things change so quickly, especially this past year, so it’s important to share real-time methodologies and examples,” she said.
“I really enjoy doing workshops or lectures for business students because each time I get to be impressed with how knowledgeable and confident they are – which makes me excited to see what they’ll produce in the world.”
The program has created several benefits. Students have an additional skill to add to their resume and have improved networking and leadership skills, while the alumni enjoyed connecting with Clarkies and passing on their own leadership experience.
Undergraduate management major John D’Eufemia was appreciative of the chance to further develop his talents. “We received clear direction on different leadership skills and gained a better understanding of what it means to be an effective leader. Connecting with these alumni and hearing about their successful careers post-Clark was valuable and reassuring.”
MBA student Qingqing Lu, president of the SOM Student Council, agreed. “What I enjoyed the most was the insight from our alumni who are currently leaders in their industry. It will help us not only in our positions on campus, but also with life after Clark.”
“Our alumni were fantastic,” Burgess added. “We can’t thank them enough.”
Special thanks to the following alumni who took part in the program:
Bryan Tamburro ’97
Sarwar Raza ’00
Taylor Bennett ’15, MBA ’16
Michelle Cove ’91
Kara Duffy ’03, MBA ’04
Alumni interested in working on similar projects in the future, or who wish to donate their time as a course guest speaker, can contact Laura Burgess.