By Cara Aungst
PHOTO: Penn State Alumni Association
In a fiercely competitive job market, having a good network is key for new graduates. As Town & Country magazine reported in August, one of the most supportive, engaged and loyal communities in the world is Penn State’s alumni network. Penn State was listed among just 15 top alumni groups in the country, according to experts at IvyWise. Alumni Relations Officer in the College of the Liberal Arts Ellen Konkle offers inside insight on the ranking.
With nearly 300 affiliate groups, the article reports that the Penn State Alumni Association offers a comprehensive networking experience through “programming to share news, support the student experience, harness the power of the network, build and sustain relationships, celebrate academic achievement, and keep traditions alive."
Ellen Konkle is an alumna of the College of Health and Human Development and is an Alumni Relations Officer in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State. She said that one of the key factors that makes the Penn State alumni network so stellar is the genuine desire among graduates to help one other.
“Penn Staters want to pay it forward to the next generation of students and they want to see other Penn State alumni succeed,” she said. “This benefits current students and alumni as they look to change careers, move to new places and broaden their professional networks.”
It’s so much bigger than having just attended the same university — it’s being part of a community that exists around the world, sticks together and, more often than not, is loud and proud.
She said that it’s hard to pinpoint in just a few words the “why” that makes Penn State’s alumni so united and passionate. “Penn State stays with you — it's shared traditions and sense of pride in your alma mater. It's knowing that anywhere you go, you'll probably encounter other Penn Staters. I've never been anywhere in the world and NOT met another Penn Stater - Iceland, Barcelona, Paris, Dublin and of course all over the U.S.,” she said. “The connection is instant and takes all different forms, from a quick ‘WE ARE’ to a longer conversation and a new, lifelong friend.”
Konkle said that alumni start impacting undergraduates the day that they arrive on campus. “They serve as mentors, volunteer to participate in career panels, hire interns and provide job opportunities. Many alumni donate incredible amounts of time and talent to the benefit of our students and the University. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't say they give generously. Our alumni provide significant financial support to Penn State that provides resources that are critical for students and faculty.”
“In my personal Penn State circles I know how often an introduction gets made that starts with, ‘I'll introduce you to this person, they are a Penn Stater, they'll be happy to have a conversation.’” Konkle said. “I see it daily. Our alumni stay connected, they pay it forward, they help students and each other. Why is the Penn State network stronger than other universities? I can't give you a simple answer, but there are a million stories of alumni helping alumni that prove it.”
“It’s so much bigger than having just attended the same university — it’s being part of a community that exists around the world, sticks together and, more often than not, is loud and proud.”