A newly formed department at St. Thomas is assisting the Class of 2020, who graduated into a world that would have been unrecognizable just months before. The abundance of uncertainty and historic unemployment rates caused by the pandemic threaten to define their earning potential for the rest of their lives.

Team members from Alumni Engagement, Corporate Engagement and Career Development (ACC), the new department led by Jessica Etten ’18 MBA, are checking in personally with each Class of 2020 graduate. In fact, Etten will be calling a list of graduates herself. “While we have always offered career services for alumni for life, there are times when our economy is tough and there are just higher needs, especially for our fresh graduates,” she said. “They just graduated in the midst of a pandemic and the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and it’s a tough time to be trying to get that first job, land on your feet and determine the next point for you in your career journey. We definitely wanted to do even more than we have typically done.”

Jessica Etten

Jessica Etten ’18 MBA

Etten’s new team may be uniquely situated to offer meaningful assistance. Prior to the formation of ACC last May, Alumni Engagement, Corporate Engagement and Career Development were separate departments. The merger has allowed Etten to coordinate efforts in all three areas in order to focus on the recent graduates who need their help the most. Post-merger, her career developers can more efficiently utilize corporate partners and alumni to make connections for recent graduates. For Etten, that means positive outcomes for all those involved.

As they make their calls, Etten and her team will be encouraging recent graduates to take advantage of tools like St. Thomas Connect to access the vast network of St. Thomas alumni. “Think of it as a LinkedIn for Tommies but a warmer place to start, because alumni are already raising their hands to be a part of that network,” Etten said. “We have more than 110,000 alumni. There is a Tommie, or a group of Tommies, that have experiences to share for just about every need that’s out there. So it’s just a really powerful network and Tommies want to help Tommies. We’re here and we want to make our career resources available; that network to me is the most powerful value of a St. Thomas education.”

Chloe Lewis ’20 was blindsided by the pandemic and its economic consequences for her generation. Lewis utilized the St. Thomas Connect platform to make warm introductions with alumni. “Let’s face it, 2020 has undoubtedly thrown us a curveball. Things are weird. Life has been tough,” Lewis said. St. Thomas Connect paid dividends for Lewis. Connections she made through the platform ultimately led her to land her first job.

Etten and her team will be reaching out to all members of the Class of 2020 this fall to deliver a message of solidarity. “You’re a member of that Tommie network for life,” Etten said. “The Tommie network is here to support you and be part of your journey throughout life.”

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