Oxford alumna Kinsey McMurtry talks with second-year student Jessica Park during a recent networking event.
Oxford alumna Kinsey McMurtry talks with second-year student Jessica Park during a recent networking event. Alden Aspiras photo

Oxford students network with alumni to gain perspective

With close to 200 Oxford College alumni in Newton County, Ga., and thousands more all over the world, college leaders aim to help connect them with current Oxford students.

“I think it’s important for alumni to see how interesting and bright our students are here at Oxford,” says Tammy Camfield, senior director of alumni engagement at Oxford. “It lets them know the college is thriving and doing well. For the students, it’s important to see the success of our alumni.”

The college recently held the Oxford Student-Alumni Networking Night on campus, an event for a handful of second-year Oxford students and alumni. It gave students the opportunity to practice professional networking skills, meet with alumni, and hear about varied alumni career paths and life after Oxford.

“We had a smaller student-to-alumni ratio that allowed for more face-to-face time and extended conversations,” says Ami Hernandez, assistant director of career services. “Several students walked away with an invitation to follow up with our alumni in order to ask more questions and deepen their exploration.”

Camfield points out that many local alumni are or have been leaders in the community–Alcovy Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judges Horace Johnson and Samuel D. Ozburn, former Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey, former Newton County Board of Commissioners Chair Kathy Morgan, and Newton County School Board member Abigail Coggin, among others.

Others have made their mark all over the world. Oxford alumnus Alex Newton 63Ox went in the Peace Corps and lived and worked overseas for about 30 years before returning to the Madison, Ga., area after retirement seven years ago.

“For a lot of people, the Peace Corps is a life-changing experience,” he says. “I think it’s been interesting to talk to students and see what they are interested in and talk about doing work internationally.”

Ariela Farchi, a second-year student from Guatemala City majoring in business and minoring in environmental science, enjoys networking and listening to alumni’s experiences at events that connect students with alumni, calling it “amazing and really helpful.”

“It was a great opportunity to meet people who were where you are and are where you want to be,” Farchi says.

In addition to networking events and having guest speakers on campus throughout the year, Oxford also boasts a Sophomore Mentor Program that matches second-year students with Oxford alumni in professional areas of interest to the student. The program offers mentoring support for the duration of their second year and facilitates exploration and development of networking skills, informational interviews, perspective on majors and/or career choices, and possible career shadowing or internship opportunities.

“The greatest gift that our alumni can give to our students is perspective,” Hernandez says. “Perspective on the role that their GPA truly had or didn’t have on their future, perspective on the value of a liberal arts education no matter the professional sector they enter, perspective on the versatility and flexibility of the work force, and perspective on how much creative choice they have about designing their lives, while in college, and especially after graduation.”

A similar student-alumni networking night will be held for first-year Oxford students on Feb. 12, 2019. Additionally, Oxford leaders encourage alumni to visit campus and speak at events or in classes.

“We look forward to involving alumni in some of our skills-based instruction on campus so that we can continue to scale services to increased student demand,” Hernandez says.

Guest speakers and presenters are welcome to meet with students on career-related topics, personal branding, networking, and other skills. New partnerships include collaborating with alumni on a day-long program dedicated to resume development or interview skill development, and an Oxford graduate is hosting a seminar in early November about financial literacy.

“We’ll continue to informally link alumni to students as they seek out professionals with whom to have informed conversations about professional paths,” Hernandez says. “We’ll continue to help students cultivate the skills that will make them ready to first explore, and then ultimately enter, the work force.”