From chemists to CEOs, pastors to pediatricians, the network of Wheaton alumni and parents is a far-reaching one. How does Wheaton facilitate connections between students and this diverse community?
In 2011, the Alumni Relations department and the Leadership Council sought to find an answer to this question. Through meeting with students, parents, and alumni, and researching the best methods of mentoring at universities around the country, they created Wheaton in Network (WiN).
Director of Alumni Relations Cindra Stackhouse Taetzsch ’82, and Manager of Wheaton in Network Emily George DeLew ’08 explain how WiN was designed to serve and connect the Wheaton community.
1. How did you create Wheaton in Network (WiN)?
CST: Wheaton in Network was inspired by the newly-formed Leadership Council, a small group of senior executives who are committed to helping students “cross the chasm” from college to career. WiN offers the broader Wheaton family an opportunity to sign up as advisors and mentors, so students will be able to take advantage of what our alumni and parents can offer.
EGD: The Wheaton community is unique, and we wanted to create a space where alumni, parents, and students could come together and collaborate with each other toward common purposes. We researched various platforms and found only one that fits our needs.
2. What is the purpose of WiN?
EGD: The ultimate goal of WiN is to facilitate meaningful connections within the Wheaton family that empower us to make a greater impact in the areas to which we’re called. At this point, this looks like tapping into the rich experience of alumni in order to help students identify their passions and gifts, and to equip students to successfully enter the workplace. Phase two of WiN includes allowing alumni to search for advisors and mentors for networking and mentoring opportunities.
3. How do you see it directly affecting the lives of students?
CST: WiN can impact students at each stage of their Wheaton lives. WiN can be attractive to students who are considering enrolling because the Wheaton network is large, loyal (to the Kingdom, to their alma mater, to each other), influential, and international. Current students can get to know members of the Leadership Council when they’re on campus and can tap into the power of the Wheaton network, through WiN, while enrolled here.
EGD: Students are acutely aware of the stresses of our economic environment. Through WiN, students can navigate their college and post-college decisions by interacting with a network of people who are cheering them on. WiN is not just another task to check off a list, but it’s a chance to talk with someone outside of college who can help them identify their strengths and consider their options after college.
4. What do you think is the greatest benefit to alumni and parents?
EGD: Through WiN, alumni and parents have the opportunity to share their stories and to use their experience to impact a student’s life. I think it’s encouraging to see how God uses the trials and successes in our lives to encourage and challenge others. It’s an incredible way to give back or pay it forward. And I really believe this is a kingdom opportunity for alumni and parents. Their support in these students’ lives can help these young adults be even more effective Christians.
5. Is it solely for the purpose of advising/mentoring, or do you see this as a tool to help students in career exploration?
EGD: WiN is not a career exploration service. That being said, it’s definitely possible that relationships developed through WiN will lead to greater clarity for a student’s career path and possibly a job. I am confident that every connection on WiN is helpful for professional development, whether it ends up in a job or not.
6. Does WiN involve spiritual mentoring?
EGD: Although WiN is not focused on spiritual mentoring, we encourage advisors/mentors to share how their faith plays out in the workplace. We hope that through WiN interactions, all members of WiN will be challenged to live for the Kingdom in their contexts.
7. How can students get involved?
CST: We’re inviting alumni and parents to join WiN this spring and summer, so there will be a consistent flow of new advisors and mentors. Students who want to register for the site will need to sign up for in-person training and I encourage them to think of this training as an opportunity to fine-tune their networking skills. Our goal is to help students be as professional as possible so their connections with alumni are successful and positive.
8. What’s your hope for the future of WiN?
EGD: I believe WiN will be a catalyst for greater collaboration within the Wheaton family. In five or ten years, I hope that having a WiN advisor or mentor becomes part of the Wheaton experience and that alumni will be more connected to each other and the College than ever before.
Since WiN’s launch in February, more than 1,700 alumni and parents have registered to serve as advisors and mentors to Wheaton students.