The Walker School Supports Students with Engaging Alumni Panels

With technology and ingenuity, schools are finding creative solutions to deliver meaningful education and outreach to their students and alumni during COVID. The Walker School is a perfect example as they recently launched Conversations with Alumni, an initiative that brings alumni back to campus to speak about their careers to upper school students.

It started with a survey to the senior class asking what industries students were most interested in learning about. After receiving feedback, Walker used Wavelength’s Alumni Search and Discover Tool to find alumni from these fields to speak with students. The most recent Conversations with Alumni included a panel of legal professionals who shared where they went to undergrad, law school, what they ultimately chose to practice and why. This was followed by a guided discussion led by Rebecca Avery, the Director of Alumni Relations.

By inviting alumni to share their experiences with current students, Rebecca promoted the value of community and showed how powerful Walker’s alumni network can be. Alumni felt valued and recognized by the school for being invited back to campus to share their insights. At the same time, students were inspired to think about their future and felt heard as they influenced what topics were to be covered.

The variety of panelists each had a different path to get into the legal profession and highlighted how decisions aren’t permanent and how careers and interests may change over time. They became more relatable to students as they shared their fondest memories on campus. Walker has provided an invaluable resource to their students by empowering them to choose their own paths with the certainty that they have a supportive community behind them.

Finding ways to bring community members of all ages together to learn from each other is one way to strengthen your alumni engagement. As you think through how you can support your alumni and students- career days, college guidance support, and special guest speakers are just a few ways to bring alumni back onto campus to inspire your current students to become leaders of the future.

A Quick Exercise in Problem Solving

Problem solving is a natural requirement for any job: you have goals to meet and barriers to overcome to get there. The challenge with problem solving is that too often, a surface level issue is identified and “fixed” without actually addressing the true matter at hand. This is just a Band-Aid.

A quick exercise I encourage when seeking to reach one’s goals and address opportunity areas is called the Fishbone or the Ishikawa Diagram. Essentially each “Rib” is a category that influences a problem.

Fishbone Diagram

The goal is to consider all the inputs and determine the key causes resulting in the problem. In this example, I have selected constituent engagement as an area for improvement.

Each organization is going to have differing components that impact the problem but I’ve provided a few below. Usually there is more than one reason behind the problem. To address it, it is imperative to identify all the influencing factors and choose what inputs you have control to change today, in the future, or something that might never be changed but still important to understand.

One must then identify why the input exists in the first place. Take incomplete or missing data: are constituents not choosing to update you as they move or change jobs? Do you have poor record books?

As you hone in on the inputs causing the main problem you wish to solve, it is easier to identify solutions that address the root cause. Solving for the root cause provides more permanent solutions and allows you to move forward in reaching your goals.

This exercise is quick and a great visual to have both leadership and teammates understand the big picture.

And this diagram is versatile! You can change the themes of the “ribs” or change the problem statement into a project goal. Instead of causal inputs, each rib can list out all the necessary components required to completing the project!

Happy Problem Solving.