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BHM Career Panel & Alumni Mixer Held in Great Hall

The Intercultural Center, in conjunction with Career Development and the Department of Alumni Engagement & Annual Giving, held its Black History Month Career Panel and Alumni Mixer on Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Great Hall’s Julian Abele Room. The event served as an opportunity to host discussion with Black alumni who shared their stories from college to the real-world, as well as obstacles they overcame on their respective journeys. The speakers for this year’s event included Morgan Alston ’23, a Production Assistant at ESPN; Kuree Cain ’12, the founder and CEO of Ninalem’s Party; Chenelle R. Covin ’11 ’17M, a technical writer for the Department of Defense; and Agbai Iroha ’18, Senior Software Engineer 1 at Siteracker.

Zaneta Rago-Craft, Ph.D., the Director of the Intercultural Center and Advisor to the President for Diversity and Inclusion, emphasized the importance of having this panel. She explained, “The importance of having a Black History Month alumni and career panel lies in providing students with inspiring role models and practical insights into various career paths.” She then emphasized how it offers a platform for alumni to share things like their experiences, challenges, and successes. She believes that this should empower students to navigate their professional journeys with confidence and resilience.

Rago-Craft agrees that attending alumni mixers during Black History Month provides invaluable networking opportunities for students. She said, “[Students] can connect with successful alumni who share similar backgrounds and experiences, learn from alumni in careers they may envision for themselves, gain mentorship, and potentially explore internship or job opportunities.” She continued, “All students can broaden their prospective and gain valuable advice on navigating the professional world.”

When it comes to deciding which alumni are contacted for potential collaboration on an event, Rago-Craft mentioned that it involves a combination of factors, such as their professional achievements, relevance to the theme’s focus, their availability, and their willingness to participate. She added, “Every year, as this is the fourth identity-conscious event in this specific series, we’ve worked with the office of Alumni Engagement and Career Development. [They] may also consider job/field diversity within the alumni pool to ensure a range of perspectives and experiences are represented.”

Lindsay Wood, Senior Director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving, weighed in about what she thinks students will gain when attending these panels. She said, “As students complete their educational journey at Monmouth and move into the next phase of their lives, we want them to know a vibrant, talented, and diverse community of alumni are excited to help them achieve their goals.” According to Wood, the BHM Alumni Career Panel and Mixer is an opportunity for students to hear from successful alumni sharing their stories from college to career. She said, “Hopefully events like these will inspire current students to take advantage of the resources available through the Career Development Office and the Intercultural Center and will also help them to imagine the ways they might stay connected to their Monmouth community after graduation.”

Wood additionally explained the process of finding alumni to bring on to the panel. She said that the criteria are surrounded by the industry, career stage, or identity groups, which help identify alumni partners. Some of them also serve as volunteers with the Board of Trustees or the Alumni Association Board of Directors. She said, “Some alumni are identified by the Career Development Office through their affiliation with top employers. Others share their personal and professional accomplishments as Class Notes (for publication in ‘Monmouth’ magazine), which allows us to recognize and celebrate the successful outcomes of a Monmouth education.” Wood highlighted that to serve the unique needs and interests of a growing diverse Hawk family with any event, they take care to represent a wide range of experiences.

Asad Whitehead, President of the Black Student Union, gave his opinion on the importance of Black students at Monmouth having the ability to speak with Black alumni of the University. He said, “[This event] provides current students with valuable insights and perspectives from individuals who have been through similar experiences and challenges. This direct connection allows for mentorship, guidance, and the sharing of wisdom that is often specific to the Black experience at Monmouth and beyond.”
Whitehead used panelist Morgan Alston as an example. “[Alston] graduated last year and already is coming back to speak at this panel. That has to be motivational to current students.” He believed that it’s important to see people who students can identify with and that sharing knowledge is the key to excelling.

Whitehead hoped that students take away a sense of empowerment and belonging. He explained, “I want them to feel inspired to pursue their dreams and goals, knowing that they have a supportive community and network of students and alumni behind them.”

Gildon Smith, Vice President of the Black Student Union, also believes that these panels are a need for perspective after graduation. He said, “The job market can be a difficult place to navigate in general let alone as a black individual. Having the insight from alumni prepares students to some degree that is definitely needed.” He’s sure that having events like these will help students achieve their goals.

Something that Smith hopes students will take away from this event is endless possibilities of what the future holds. He reflected, “We are going to have alumni in completely different career fields. This is a perfect example showing students there isn’t only one direction to go in.”