At the recent ACSN 2017 Annual Conference in Boston, I was lucky enough to host two roundtable discussions titled “Career Narratives and LGBTQ Affinity Networks.” The goal of the ACSN roundtable was to discuss and share strategies and best practices for introducing career development resources and programming to existing affinity-focused alumni groups. While the roundtable title focuses on the LGBTQ community, we discussed all diversity-based affinity networks.

Both roundtables delivered a great attendance and thoughtful conversation. In an effort to share some of our takeaways, this post includes high-level notes from our discussions, as well as suggestions you can take into account when working with your own alumni groups.

Please note: It was a bit of a difficult task keeping up with note-taking while engaged in conversation. I’ve attached links to provide more clarity and an opportunity to reach out directly to attending institutions.

ACSN Roundtable Institutions:

**Hyperlinks direct to LGBTQ and diversity network resources

Roles of Those in Attendance:

  • Career Consultant
  • Assistant Director of Career Development
  • Director of Alumni Career Networking
  • Associate Director of Alumni Career Programs & Engagement
  • Alumni Career Programs Coordinator
  • Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement
  • Associate Director of Alumni Career Strategy

ACSN Roundtable Key Takeaways, Group Structures & Resources:

Indiana University

Indiana University’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Alumni Association (GLBTAA) improves the quality of life for LGBTQ students, faculty, staff and alumni on each of IU’s eight campuses. The group provides networking and social opportunities for members, and provides mentoring and support programs for students.

The institution’s Professional Community Programs office is working to connect each of the individual campus networks. It is also working to increase career development resources by hosting two workshops each semester with GLBTAA members.

Williams College

In an effort to strengthen Williams College’s affinity networks, the institution cohosted a virtual networking event for alumni with Amherst College. The program was a success, as previously unengaged alumni joined affinity groups.

To drive further career education and opportunities, the Alumni Career Networking office is working to develop mentoring relationships between different LGBTQ generations.

Colgate University

Colgate has distinct LGBTQ Initiatives and LGBTQ Studies. The two groups work independently but also collaboratively to educate and support the school’s LGBTQ community.

The Alumni Engagement staff within the Center for Career Services is actively recruiting alumni to build these networks. An effective strategy they’ve employed is researching university news archives to identify alumni who were previously engaged in diversity initiatives. Staff then reach out to highlighted individuals to see if they would like to join affinity groups.

American University

The institution’s Pride Alumni Alliance (AU Pride) connects and engages the LGBTQ and ally communities of American University Alumni. Alumni are actively engaged through volunteer opportunities, philanthropic commitments to American University, and raising awareness of LGBTQ-related social issues.

To create a pipeline of alumni engaged in AU Pride, the university hosts recurring Pride Alliance events to connect students and alumni.

Regarding career development within affinity networks, the representative from American’s Career Center in attendance noted the office tags employers attending career fairs based on their need or desire for diversity hiring. This allows attendees to research companies in advance.

Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Harvard has a Gender and Sexuality Caucus that supports LGBTQ alumni, students, faculty and staff all over the world.

The Kennedy School’s Associate Director from the Office of Career Advancement brought attention to the importance of differentiating interests in career development resources and social issues. It’s important to survey group members and understand their needs/ interests so the school can retain their engagement.

There are over 200 members in Harvard Kennedy School’s LGBTQ alumni network, and it recently launched a mentoring program connecting alumni and first-generation LGBTQ-identified students.

Brandeis University

Brandeis serves a high percentage of students from underrepresented groups. In order to gauge their interests as far as alumni involvement they are required to take a survey.

To connect and educate students, alumni, faculty and staff, Brandeis developed “The Dialogues: Navigating Gender and Race at Work” The interactive event series promotes dialogue, learning and relationships among those interested in diversity in the workplace.

“The Dialogues” have been extremely engaging due to staff’s efforts to develop programming tied to industries and topics of interest and relevance. For example, a recent panel dealt with “Identity in Tech.”

ACSN Roundtable Resources:

Representatives from Harvard Kennedy School and Bryn Mawr College offered up some resources with high recommendation:

Thank You!

It was such a pleasure to join the conversation with these higher education professionals. Promoting diversity and inclusivity on campus and within an institution’s greater communities is an all-encompassing effort.

Those in attendance at ACSN 2017 represent just a small portion of those in the higher education community raising awareness, and providing career development and opportunities for LGBTQ and gender-non-conforming students and alumni.

If you’d like to discuss initiatives in place at your institution, feel free to reach out to directly.

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