The Alumnae Association and its volunteer leadership are making it easier for alumnae to connect professionally in their hometowns with Regional Professional Gatherings. Local alumnae leaders host the events, which center on a professional discipline, such as law or energy.
Aside from networking opportunities, each gathering offers participants the chance to hear directly from leaders in their field. “We have a lot of influential Smith alumnae leaders out there,” says founder and CEO of the Virtual Minds Agency Jennifer Beindorf ’91, a co-host of the Los Angeles event “Powering Up! Smith Women in Business.” “Let’s harness our influential power as business people, as decision makers, as leaders, and as mentors for up-and-coming young women getting into the workforce.”
The first gathering held in February, in Washington, DC, was “Alumnae in Nonprofits.” Co-host Charlotte Kea ’82, a deputy director at the Peace Corps and former president of the Alumnae Association’s board of directors, says the event was a great way for alumnae to meet informally. “Most of the time was for mingling and chatting. I sat with a small group focused on international development opportunities, and we discussed how to enter that field and strategies for getting jobs,” she says.
According to Betsy Hopkins, AASC events and programs director, the idea behind these gatherings was to take the large-scale professional conferences that attract hundreds of alumnae to campus every year and make them more intimate. “Alumnae have told us that they want more opportunities to network with other Smith women at the local level, “ she says. “These gatherings provide that service and the first one was quite successful.”
While some of the events, like “Alumnae in Nonprofits,” are informal, the upcoming “Powering Up! Smith Women in Business,” to be held at the end of March in Los Angeles, will feature several panel discussions on a variety of business trends and topics, as well as remarks by President Carol T. Christ about what’s happening at Smith today.
Lois Thompson ’66, an attorney who sits on the AASC board of directors and co-host of the LA event, believes there are a number of ways alumnae will benefit. “It is an opportunity for Smith alumnae who are engaged in any aspect of business in the greater Los Angeles area to connect with each other,” she says. “We also think there are large numbers of women who can be role models and mentors. And with Carol Christ attending, we look forward to learning what Smith currently is doing to encourage women who want to pursue careers in business.”
The networking is already paying off. Dylan Orr ’01, who attended the “Alumnae in Nonprofit “ gathering, says, “I made some new connections—some older, some younger—and have exchanged some helpful information. I also just attended another Smith event, a conversation with Carol Christ and Jane Lakes Harman ’66, and it was great to reconnect with some of my new contacts there.”
Cheryl Dellecese is associate director, print and new media