Bringing alumni back to campus to share their stories, their insights and their advice proves to be beneficial for the students — and worthwhile for the busy executives who participated in the third annual Panther Alumni Week (PAW) at Florida International University (FIU) February 1-5, 2016.
“The students were engaged, eager to listen and asked terrific questions including some that surprised me,” said Fidel Chacon (MIB ’03), director, Implementation, for Visa Latin America and the Caribbean. Chacon, one of 42 alumni who participated in PAW this year, visited a Freshman Experience class and spoke about the importance of building your own brand.
“During the question and answer session, I was struck by some students needing a bit of reassurance that they’re on the right path by getting a degree,” said Chacon. “But many FIU students are first generation college students so they might need the support from people in the field, supporting their decision to pursue higher education. That’s one of the reasons it’s important for alumni to come back to campus, to pay it forward.”
This year’s PAW events included a kick-off celebration, classroom visits and a closing reception. Also, new for this year, alumni had the opportunity to have lunch or dinner with a small group of students, and alumni from around the world could connect online with students during the PAW Virtual Meet Up on February 3.
PAW is example of new generation of alumni.
PAW was the brainchild of an alumnus of the College of Business, Gerald C. Grant Jr. (MBA ’89, BBA ’78), who serves as an FIU trustee. Grant, who believes “graduates can help make a difference in the lives of our existing students,” suggested the PAW idea that was later developed by the Office of the Provost and the FIU Alumni Association.
“This event gives us an opportunity to reconnect our past graduates with the university,” Grant said. “If we work together and unite our past graduates we can change the entire future of FIU.”
Alumni making a difference is one of the reasons that Chacon plans on participating in PAW again next year. So does PAW participant Andres Campo (BBA ’00), chair and founder of Axxis Solutions and chief marketing officer for United Data Technologies (UDT), who visited a marketing class. He gave an abundance of job interview tips and talked about traditional and non-traditional career paths.
“When I was at FIU, we didn’t have the involvement from alumni that we do today,” Chacon said. “Alumni do have an impact on students. PAW is a great way to connect with students and hopefully give them some golden nuggets about how to succeed.”