Q&A with the Office of Alumni Engagement at Carlow University 

Interview is from November of 2021

Interviewer: Stellanie X. Kyros 
Interviewees: Erika Thon, Director, Alumni Engagement 
Haley Vanwagenen, Assistant Director, Alumni Engagement 

Erika Thon, Director, Alumni Engagement
photo by Rebecca Droke
Haley Vanwagenen, Assistant Director, Alumni Engagement
photo by Rebecca Droke

Q: What is the office of Alumni engagement and what is its main purpose? 

A: The purpose of the Office of Alumni Engagement is to keep alumni connected and engaged with the university through events, professional development, and communications. We are part of the Office of Advancement.

Q: What are some misconceptions of the office of Alumni Engagement? 

A: A big misconception of the Office of Alumni is that we are only after your money. While being a donor is important and a measure of engagement, there are many ways to “give back” to your alma mater. We provide opportunities for alumni to give in ways outside of financial contributions, such as mentoring and serving on our Alumni Council.  

Q: Why is Alumni engagement important /why should post grad students care about staying connected? Benefits?  

A: Alumni engagement is important because it allows us to remain connected to our heritage and celebrates Carlow traditions. It keeps the memories alive!  

Q: What kind of events do you have that are offered to current students? 

A: One of the first things we noticed upon starting, was the huge disconnect between our office and current students. Our event calendar is growing, and our first student-centered event is coming up in November. We will be hosting Advice & A Slice networking events for students and alumni each month with the exception of December (We know how busy students are right before finals!) These events will be based on discipline and will allow students to connect with alumni who are in the same field. Our first Advice and a Slice will be for those in the Nursing field.  

We hope to have more student-centered programs in the spring semester, so stay turned!

Q: What kind of events are you looking to promote for the alumni network? 

A: We plan social events like happy hours, professional development and networking events, family friendly events like Breakfast with Santa, and each month we host a virtual event.  

Q: How can we stay connected to the office of alumni engagement? 

A: Get connected with our social media platforms! We provide weekly updates about what’s going on at Carlow, information on our event schedule, alumni spotlights and so much more.  
Carlow Connect: 

Post Grad Reflection:  

It is common that students experience a type of post grad “what do I do next” in life feeling. 

For a traditional student, they have been in school from kindergarten until their final year of undergrad, that’s a lot of life identifying as a student. It can be really scary to have to approach adulthood and explore a new identity.  

Q: How do you plan to approach this concern with post graduate students? Please give some tangible lessons or tools for support.   

A: We recognize how overwhelming “adulting” can be right out of college. We want you to continue to see Carlow as your home even many years after graduating. At the moment, alumni have access to Career Development to help with their job search or career change, they can use the library if on campus, and we are working to add more resources!  

Q: What are the tools offered by the office of Alumni Engagement that can help students feel more confident in approaching adult hood post grad? 

A: We will be hosting a series of “Adulting 101” events, sharing things that they don’t teach you in classroom. Topics such as ‘how to live on a budget’, ‘picking an insurance plan at your new job’, and ‘how to tackle student loan debt’ are some areas we look to use our expert alumni and faculty to provide support to our new graduates as they head out into the world.  

Congratulations on graduating!  

Postgrad opens up the door for a lot of opportunities! It gives you a chance to explore and chase after your dreams and fulfill any and all of your aspirations. With that freedom to do as you please, there is also a lot of time you never had before that you now have to navigate how to allocate.  

Q: Life post grad can sometimes be confusing, exhausting, overwhelming…..weird. How has life post grad been? – share your experience and emotions around that… 

“Post grad life has been awesome and sad at the same time. I love this freedom because it is not only that I have time for myself but I also do not have this hovering anxiety about school over my head. I am not constantly anxious anymore and its very relieving knowing that I graduated. I did that and now I can live in my accomplishments. On the other hand, these past few months have been sad. I am not even sure “sad” is the right word to describe it, but I am not as happy as I thought I would be after graduation. I have been lonely because all my friends either moved away or have adult jobs now, so I do not see them as much. I also feel lonely because I have all this free time, I have no clue what to do with. Nursing school stripped me of all my hobbies so now I am trying to figure out what I like to do again. On a budget though! I am more broke than before somehow!”  

-Julz Mamajek, Carlow University May 2021, BSNursing 

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