Your B-School needs YOU: B-School graduates are volunteering at their alma maters, and it’s not just all about altruism.
B-school isn’t just about the programme – it’s about the people you meet and the friendships, knowledge and skills you take forward into the rest of your career. Which is why at Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) a growing number of alumni are taking that relationship further by volunteering their time to play an active role in the School’s development and continued success.
Yutaro Kojima, a creative strategist at Facebook, has supported the business school, both in Cambridge and at his own workplace, since graduating from the full-time MBA programme in 2011. He says: “I come back as a visiting speaker – I’ve done a couple of courses on marketing and strategy and I’ve taken part in a couple of panels.
“Another thing I do for alumni and current students is to operate an open-door policy for them at Facebook. If they’re interested in the place they can come along and I’ll give them my two cents: advice and guidance on careers and how to approach job applications.”
These meetings can prove as beneficial for Yutaro as for the students themselves. He says: “You get to expand your mind with very intelligent people from different fields. My intention is to advise, but often I’m the one who becomes educated; I get as much as they do out of these one-to-one meetings.”
Nathalie Walker, Director of External Affairs at Cambridge Judge, says that alumni get involved in many different ways, from returning as a guest speaker or sponsoring students on consulting projects to helping with recruitment events or networking groups. Others may serve as CJBS ambassadors, mentors or alumni board members.
“A lot of alumni find giving back to be hugely rewarding,” she says. “They like sharing their experience, and they feel that they’re building a stronger business-school network. They see the benefits of reciprocity. All graduates want their own school to be the best in the world, as it increases the brand value of their degree.”
Cambridge Executive MBA (EMBA) alumnus Filip Corveleyn says that alumni can strengthen the “wider ecosystem of Cambridge Judge Business School”. In 2015 he founded Tools4Legal with Felix Rackwitz, whom he met on the EMBA programme, to offer technology-based legal solutions to corporate clients. Since then, both have donated their time to advise potential students at recruitment events.
He says: “We’ve done information sessions in Frankfurt and Cologne and we’ve invited the School to do one in our offices in Germany. At the grand opening of the Entrepreneurship Centre, we set up a booth as a showcase for what initiatives can come out of the School, and chatted to some prospective EMBA students.”
Filip believes that in these settings, alumni can pass on valuable insights into the programme. “The best ambassadors for the programme are the ones who have done it,” he says. “For instance, a lecturer will tell you that you shouldn’t underestimate having to combine work, family life and part-time study, but we’re the people who can best tell you what it actually feels like.”
Maintaining links between CJBS and its worldwide network of graduates is a vital task, and one often taken on by alumni volunteers. Alumni groups are active in more than 30 countries, and there are also special-interest groups in fields such as health and biotech, private equity and venture capital, and social innovation.
The New York alumni group is led by Liliana Parodi-Huml, a business development director at Diligent Corporation who completed her EMBA in 2014. Like many of the chapters, it has grown organically. She says: “My former classmates get together in London, and we felt as though we were missing some of that over here. I got in touch with some alumni from the EMBA class, and we started setting up monthly drinks.”
Events now attract 30 or more alumni, who are able to socialise and network in an informal setting. Recently, a small number of prospective students asked to attend. Liliana says: “We had a couple of women who were undergraduates at Cornell, and wanted to ask about what it was like to study at Cambridge. We were happy to give them our advice.”
A more formal initiative is the mentoring scheme for students on the MPhil in Management. Andrea Maggio, an investment banking analyst at Evercore and graduate of the MPhil in Finance, has been involved in the scheme from its beginning. He says: “Having the ability to reach out and leverage the Judge network really gives students the edge – not only when applying for a specific job, but also when making broader decisions about career development.
“It’s a pleasure to give back to the University, and I think they do a good job of matching mentor and student. Last year, I advised someone who wanted to do exactly what I do myself, and I was able to pass on good insights there.”
Nathalie Walker believes that these initiatives not only foster a strong CJBS network for students, staff and alumni, but make it a more attractive prospect for the most talented future applicants. Getting more alumni involved is a priority. She says: “They had a great time at Cambridge Judge, partly because people like them had given back to enhance the student experience. Now they want to do the same thing – and we want to make it easy for them to interact with us.”