alumni reconnect

alumni reconnect

Returning to Give and Guide
JWU Alumni Reconnect: retuning to give and guide

By Dan Wilga ’05, ’08 MBA

“Making the right career decision after graduation is a stressful situation, so feeding the students the right information benefits them immensely,” explains William Strynkowski ’83 about his reasons for returning to campus for Alumni Leaders Week. A graduate of the College of Culinary Arts and executive chef for Restaurant Associates and Cooking Light magazine, he understands the value of the exchange and the setting. “It’s a great opportunity for the students to sit and ask questions in a very unpretentious way.”

JWU Alumni Reconnect William StrynkowskuAlumni Leaders Week began as a pilot program on the Providence Campus in 2006 and is now presented universitywide. The week of panels, forums and classroom discussions puts students face-to-face with graduates to talk about industry prospects and gain insights from professionals in the field. Alumni from each college discuss their own successes, hoping to inspire students and fellow alumni alike. Each year, the program has grown in scope as more alumni become involved with the effort at each campus.

This year, Denver leaders returned in January, Providence in February, Charlotte in March and North Miami in April, just as juniors and seniors were making decisions about their career direction. The extended exposure gave students a view of what to expect upon graduation and the challenges or obstacles within a particular industry, from those already there.

JWU Alumni Reconnect MNI Spring 10 230x160“The benefit to students comes from the fact that someone in the audience shares the same dream of achievement [we] alumni did when we were students,” says Bobby Fitzgerald ’93, Charleston Campus graduate and director of operations at White Chocolate Grill Inc., who spoke in Denver. For Fitzgerald, being asked to come back to share those experiences had an added bonus. “Alumni week was great for me. Being able to share my life and business experience since graduation with tomorrow’s leaders, and seeing their response is re-energizing. I get as much out of it as the students,” he says.

Plans are underway to expand Alumni Leaders Week programming at each campus next year and to involve more alumni in the weeklong event. Strynkowski was impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of students and alumni on campus for the College of Culinary Arts day. “It [Alumni Leaders Week] focuses on what JWU is all about — the past, the present, and the future ... Giving back to the students is key to their success.”

Image top: Juan Alvarado '09, Providence
Image center: William Strynkowski '83
Image Bottom: Maureen Lloyd-James '88, Jerse Issac '02 and Kyshana Guzman '02, North Miami