New group works to engage young alumni
By Katie Bell (BS 07), YED Chair
In 2018, University of Illinois CEE Alumni Association Board member Rich Sieracki (BS 74) wanted to create a vehicle for young graduates to connect with the department and their peers who were in similar stages of development in their professional careers. This group – which would eventually become the Young Engineers Division (YED) – would provide an environment where young alumni would have opportunities to develop and refine leadership and other skills that would enhance their abilities to advance in their careers.
In August 2018, the CEE department encouraged young alumni (35 years old and younger) to apply for a limited number of spots on the inaugural YED leadership team. This group would be responsible for developing the goals and charter of the group, as well as chairing specific committees within the YED. In November 2018, the leadership team was assembled, and they held their first meeting shortly thereafter. Leadership team members include:
- Katie Bell (BS 07): Chair/Scholarship Committee Chair
- Adam Blumstein (BS 13): Networking Committee Co-Chair
- Christine Daul (BS 15): Networking Committee Co-Chair
- Guillermo Díaz-Fañas (MS 14): Mentorship Committee Chair
- Alex Lakocy (BS 14): Career Development Committee Co-Chair
- Jill McClary (BS 13): Career Development Committee Co-Chair
Now, nearly two years later, the group has an approved charter and has begun advancing all of their key initiatives related to scholarship, networking, career development and mentoring.
The goal of the Scholarship Committee is to establish a means for young alumni to philanthropically support current students through a newly established YED scholarship fund. The fund has been created and is open to accept gifts through the CEE giving website cee.illinois.edu/make-gift-cee. Gifts to the fund are being accepted in the form of both one-time and recurring payments, and it is anticipated that scholarships will be awarded in $1,000 increments.
The goal of the Networking Committee is to establish a group that YED members can use to share knowledge and information and establish contacts. This committee will host events to connect young graduates with the purpose of establishing long-term business relationships and identifying potential job opportunities. Their first event was held in November 2019 at Tapster in Lincoln Park (Chicago) where approximately 20 alumni gathered to watch the Illinois vs. Citadel men’s basketball game. Subsequent in-person events have currently been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the committee is looking to provide some virtual networking opportunities in the near future.
The goal of the Career Development Committee is to provide guidance to young alumni of both graduate and undergraduate programs regarding continuing education and professional development. This committee will be compiling and disseminating useful information on licensure and certification requirements, and providing guidance on skill development for various career tracks. They will use feedback received from young alumni to develop blog-style posts and webinars with specific recommendations and resources for the Illinois CEE alumni community.
The goal of the Mentorship Committee is to provide one-on-one mentoring to Illinois CEE alumni who have graduated within the last 5 years. These recent alumni will have an opportunity to apply to the program upon graduation with the objective of providing them with a resource to network and connect with more experienced alumni. Mentor/mentee pairs will be established based on matching experience and skills of the mentor with goals and needs of the mentee. Mentors will be expected to correspond with their mentee periodically during the mentorship cycle, providing them with guidance on their post-graduation pursuits with the expectation of a two-year period.
The YED will distribute a monthly e-newsletter to young alumni, in which they will advertise upcoming events and provide information and how to become involved with the group and donate to the scholarship fund. Please look out for future news from YED, and we hope to connect with you soon!