For many engineering students, there is a major dichotomy between university studies and life in the real world. While the academic curriculum emphasizes technical learning and problem-solving skills, engineers in industry rely upon a network of strong connections and effective communicative abilities as well.
“In the working world it’s a balance of everything,” expressed Allison Keator, a graduate student in Geology and President of Orediggers Connect. “We are trying to emphasize what happens outside of the classroom and what might be needed in the future.”
Orediggers Connect is a new initiative on campus that seeks to foster meaningful connections among current students, between students and alumni, and elsewhere within the Mines community. While the program will build upon events started by the Student Alumni Association (SAA), Orediggers Connect will place a higher emphasis on casual networking opportunities.
“SAA had a very similar mission but we were primarily focused on students and alumni and more professional development and networking,” Keator stated. “That narrow focus left out a lot of folks who wanted to connect with people in more casual settings.”
New programming will focus more on incorporating casual and social events and maybe even outdoor activities.
“In the real world, a lot of business gets done over an hour lunch,” Keator expressed. “We want to mimic that kind of networking instead of a formal event that requires a huge time commitment because we know people don’t have that time.”
However, Orediggers Connect is such a new initiative that the club is still in the process of defining its initial goals, mission, and niche on campus. The executive board recently sent out a survey to gauge student interest and identify some of the most prevalent obstacles to forming meaningful connections.
“What the preliminary results of the survey suggest is that students are really interested in connecting with alumni and other students,” Keator explained, “but what is driving them away from that is a lack of time to attend events that foster those connections.”
Orediggers Connect will also work to give students opportunities to ask alumni questions about industries of interest or life after Mines and to meet with potential mentors. Because Orediggers Connect works directly with the Mines Alumni Association and the Mines Foundation, the group can also help other organizations tackle the logistics of coordinating alumni visits to campus.
“Luckily we have a lot of Denver alumni that do frequently visit campus,” explained Keator. “If we can find an event that is enjoyable where they are giving back to current Mines students, they are more than willing to donate their time.”
Although the new organization will incorporate a number of new ideas, several events formerly coordinated by SAA will continue annually. For instance, the Connections Dinner co-hosted by CASA is here to stay.
“Both students and alumni really like that event because it gives people an opportunity to have conversations with a large number of people in a relatively short amount of time,” Keator stated.
The event, which takes place in the spring semester, incorporates the “speed-dating concept” in which an alumnus and six or seven students sit down at a table and discuss for maybe ten minutes and then students get up and rotate to another table. Over 250 students and 40 alumni have attended Connections in the past.
Keator’s passion for promoting student growth outside of the classroom stems from her own experience with mentors and pursuit of a career in an unfamiliar industry.
“I am not the most extroverted person and I think a lot of people at Mines are in that boat,” Keator expressed. However, practicing formal and informal conversations can lead students to internships, mentoring relationships, and a plethora of other industry opportunities.
Keator advises “When you step away from Mines, what is really going to be important down the road is probably not the extra hour or two that you spent studying but maybe a connection that was fostered by attending an event and having a really good conversation with someone.”