Rivers Connect: Alumni Share Words of Wisdom with Seniors

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that predicting the future can be a tricky business. But laying the groundwork for the future is another matter. With that in mind, last week’s Rivers Connect event brought together graduating seniors and Rivers alumni to discuss life after high school.
Marc Stroum, director of alumni engagement, explains that over the past couple of years, the event has pivoted away from being a “career night.” “The students aren’t always looking for industry-specific information,” he says. “We want to talk about how to network, how to brand yourself, how to prepare for college and beyond.”
 
The well-attended event unfolded last Thursday over Zoom. First up was keynote speaker Ali Grabler Stein ’01, whose presence immediately underscored one advantage to meeting in the virtual space: She phoned in from California. Stein shared with the students her post-Rivers journey, from studying psychology at Colgate to holding positions at Google and Facebook to taking on her current role as director of operations for an interior design firm. She emphasized the power of networking (it was a Rivers connection that helped her land the Google job), the importance of agency and self-determination in forging a career path, and the value of identifying, and then following, your passion. Stein reminded these soon-to-be-newly-minted graduates that Rivers’s alumni network is a powerful one. “There are a lot of alumni who want to help you, so tap into that community,” she told the seniors.
 
The group then split up into breakout rooms each led by two or three alumni who’d volunteered to head up Q&A sessions. The student questions were largely focused on the college experience, participants reported. “They asked about what to expect going into freshman year, and our advice on things we wish we had known going into it,” said Will Lawton ’06, one of the alumni volunteers.
 
“This is definitely a difficult year for seniors, in terms of uncertainty about college,” added Tom Tarlow ’10. “Some are accepting admission to a school they’ve never seen—and I can only imagine how this amplifies the normal apprehension and excitement that comes with going off to college.”
 
Amanda Korff ’07 said seniors in her breakout room were curious about the concept of changing careers and not being bound to a particular role or field by their college major. The event works well, she said, because it gives seniors “a safe space to learn about a wide array of jobs and career paths.” It also, said Korff, helps launch their Rivers network and forge alumni connections.
 
Besides Stein, several alumni who live far from the Boston area were able to participate, thanks to the Zoom format. “We had two in California, some in New York City, one in Pittsburgh. Two were traveling that day. That was fantastic,” said Stroum. And a wide range of career paths was represented, from finance to medicine to education to consulting and more.

Afterward, seniors were enthusiastic about how the event unfolded. “Speaking with the alumni was extremely rewarding,” said Jess Bargamian ’21. “Hearing them share about their experiences and talk about where Rivers has led them today made me realize the unquantifiable value of the education that I receive here at Rivers…. It was really cool to see all of the amazing things that Rivers graduates go on to do after their time here at Rivers.”
 
The evening is intended to support current seniors, but the alumni who volunteer say they also benefit from the experience. “Rivers was influential for me, so I want to find ways to give back to the school beyond monetary donations,” said Lawton. “Being able to help enrich students’ lives in some way is very rewarding.”
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