On Thursday, January 17, when most of the Colgate student body was preparing for a return to campus after a long winter recess, 425 members of the Class of 2008 had already arrived in Hamilton. They were gathered for “Real World,” a weekend of panel discussions and networking receptions with Colgate alumni looking to help ready them for life beyond graduation.
The event, which was organized by the Senior Class Council in cooperation with the Office of Alumni Affairs, Center for Leadership and Student Involvement (CLSI) and the Center for Career Services, saw many changes in its twelfth year under the leadership of Senior Class President Taylor Buonocore.
“I was the only one who had been at the event before, which gave me a chance to really work on fixing the problem areas,” Buonocore said. “One concern was that, in the past, participants didn’t love dressing in business casual for the entire weekend. So we thought it would maintain uniformity and bolster school spirit to have ‘Colgate Casual’ on opening day. It paid off, because at the luncheon on Friday, everyone was dressed in their jeans and Colgate shirts. Several alums had expressed that whenever they see someone with a Colgate shirt on, they make a point to step across the street and talk to them. But in that room, they didn’t know where to start!”
Following a welcoming party on Thursday night at Nichols and Beal, the participants assembled in the Hall of Presidents for a keynote address given by President of NBC Sports Ken Schanzer ’66. Schanzer shared his “real world” experience with the seniors, but also gave them strong incentive to ask questions: two field-side tickets to a Yankee game, to be exact.
Buonocore noted that his speech set an encouraging tone for the weekend.
“I don’t remember his words exactly, but I remember how I felt. It was very lighthearted and hopeful,” Buonocore said.
Buonocore arranged her own opening remarks to directly address the 300 responses that the Senior Class Council received from a survey they sent out in September.
“When seniors were asked to share one crucial question that they have regarding job searching and life after Colgate,” she said in her address, “the overwhelming majority asked how to balance career success and happiness. One of you asked, ‘Will I be able to find a job that I love every day? Should I sacrifice my happiness a little in order to be successful and earn a living?'”
This year, with a diverse group of panels specifically tailored to the interests expressed in the surveys, “Real World” was more poised to answer this question than ever before. Alumni of all ages and career backgrounds came from across the county to engage the concerns of the soon-to-be-graduates. Over 100 seniors attended the “Non-profit Organizations” panel in Golden Auditorium. “Environmental Careers” and “Consulting” were also high
“My goal for the weekend was to see the Class of ’08 participate throughout the weekend and engage in conversation with the Alums,” Office Manager of Center for Leadership and Student Involvement Denise Upton said. “They did an awesome job and were so confident. I think the [alumni] were pleasantly surprised with the involvement from the class.”
Participant senior Hayley Smith noted that she got the sense that her class felt a little more confident in beginning their job searches after the “Real World” weekend.
“Hearing from such successful alumni helped us to realize just how smart and capable we are,” Smith said. “‘Real World’ did a great job of bringing in alumni from all majors and careers.”
Smith’s remarks seem to fulfill one of the goals that Vice-President of Alumni Affairs RuthAnn Loveless had set out for the weekend.
“I wanted the seniors to understand the power of their Colgate degree and the important liberal arts skills that they have acquired,” Loveless said. “I hoped that they would see firsthand the commitment of our alumni and how they give back to Colgate in so many ways … and that they will do the same.”
A few months after the seniors returned their surveys, the Senior Class Council invited them to share the best piece of advice they had ever received.
“The insightful submissions shared by our class suggest that most of us already know the answer to the ‘just how important is happiness’ question,” Buonocore said in her opening address. She later explained that the overwhelming response to this question was “do what you love, and the rest will come.”
“People are scared,” she said, “but they already know the answer. The question is will they follow what they’ve identified as the best piece of advice.”