Saturday, July 31, 2021

Bridging the Gap: Ole Miss Students Network with Alumni

By: Lauren McDaniel, Gracie Hampton, Merrick McCool, Ann Katherine Adams, Anna Jordanou

Every year, the Ole Miss Student Alumni Council hosts the “Bridging the Gap” event which brings together current students and alumni. This year, five diverse panelists will speak to students about their careers, what they are doing now, how they have gotten there, and how the university has helped them along the way. This event will take place on October 21 at 4:00 p.m. 

A special aspect of the “Bridging the Gap” event is that it offers an opportunity for students to network with alumni from all over. Students are given the chance to listen to these alumni speak on a variety of careers which ensures that students are able to listen to speakers that interest them. 

Student Alumni Council President, Chessie Kay, is very excited for this year’s event and the great potential it holds.

“There are tons of networking opportunities here, especially if you’re interested in some of the things these panelists are doing,” Kay said. “You can ask them for advice and how to get to where you want to get and just kind of that career route. A lot of people have benefited in the past from coming.”

In the past, the “Bridging the Gap” participants have been able to network and interact with panelists afterward, but with the event being held virtually over Zoom Webinar, the Student Alumni Council is making changes to accommodate for the student’s interests. 

“We try to get a really broad spectrum of professions, so that way each student has something that applies to their major or their potential career path,” Kay said. “We usually have a diverse group. We have younger panelists, some older panelists, males, females, some people who are working near Oxford, and even people who are out in California, but everything is different this year.”

Carolyn Moulton, Student Alumni Council Vice President of External Relations, has worked tirelessly this year planning the “Bridging the Gap” event in order to get the word out about the Student Alumni Council. 

“I would say my biggest goal is to really learn how to do this best virtually and I think now it’s an opportunity for us to just grow from this and see what all we’re capable of,” Moulton said. “I know in past years it has been a little bit difficult at times to be able to find some of these really busy people to set aside a whole weekend to travel to Oxford. I think if it is really successful, it really could be something that maybe we can even use more in the future.”

The five panelists speaking at the “Bridging the Gap” event are Austin Powell, who is a global escalation specialist at Facebook, Eden Sandlin who is an executive assistant at New York Times, Tyler McBeth who is a nurse in New York City who worked with COVID-19 patients and is opening up his own men’s health private practice, Kimberly Dandridge who is Associate Corporate Counsel at Amazon, and Fletcher Whitwell who is Chief Media and Publishing Officer and partner at R&R Partners in Las Vegas.

“This is the first time that I’ve been in charge of planning it, and of course we would love it if we could have a panel of twenty people but that just obviously would not work the best,” Moulton said. “I think just being able to get second opinions from our other exec members has been really helpful.”

The Student Alumni Council was able to expand their invitation list with the event being held over Zoom webinar, allowing alumni to speak to students virtually no matter where they are. 

“Something really awesome that has actually come out of this seemingly unfortunate circumstance is that we’re able to find the good in that we can talk to these people no matter how far they are,” Kay said. “In the past, we’ve loved having them in person, but with the unique traveling circumstances this year, all of the panelists will be zooming in. This year we’re getting more diverse panelists than we normally would. It’s actually kind of worked out in our favor in the sense that we’re getting to talk to these really accomplished professionals and they don’t necessarily have to be in Oxford.”

The “Bridging the Gap” event will be held over a Zoom Webinar where student’s cameras are turned off and their microphones are automatically muted. This will allow for the five panelists to speak to the students without interruptions and there will be time afterward for the students to talk to the panelists themselves with questions they have.

It will be council member Neely Mullen’s second time attending the “Bridging the Gap” event.

“I had a great time last year and I think it’s a great opportunity for students to network with alumni,” Mullen said. “It was really interesting to hear from graduates how Ole Miss has shaped their professional experience. I’m super excited for this year because I think it being virtual makes it more attainable and there are some really exciting panelists lined up.”   

“I think one of the cool things that the Student Alumni Council does is connecting students with alumni, each student gets an alumni mentor in the spring.  It’s a really great opportunity for the students to get involved with the Ole Miss Alumni Association,” Kay said. “Our expression or phrase that we use is that our whole purpose is to bridge the gap between students and alumni.”

The Student Alumni Council has hosted hundreds of students for the Bridging the Gap in past years, given that the event has been on Friday evenings prior to game day. This year, since the event is on a Wednesday evening, the council is expecting more students to tune in.    

“I definitely think that our numbers will increase, especially because now that it’s virtual,” Moulton said. “We were able to move the event to a Wednesday afternoon, versus a Friday afternoon which, in the past, has normally been a busy Game Day weekend. So I definitely think that more students might be able to put this on their schedule and be able to spend more time on it.” 

The “Bridging the Gap” event is open to everyone and members of the Student Alumni Council and the Alumni Association encourage everyone to attend and take advantage of this opportunity to connect with new people and get involved in this unique way.