Be True To Your School: An Alumni Guide To Giving Back
The 15,000-strong global alumni community provides networking, education, and self-care opportunities, but for nurses who view their Penn Nursing experience as foundational, that is often not enough. It is the time and talent aspects that offer unique possibilities to directly impact students, faculty, and the future of Penn Nursing. Here are just a few meaningful ways to get involved as an alumni volunteer.
1 Alumni Board
Are you an organizer at heart? Have a passion for fostering alumni involvement?
Whether you love the programming the Penn Nursing Alumni Engagement team offers or you have great ideas to shake things up, consider applying to be part of the 23-member Alumni Board. With three committees within the Board’s structure, there are a range of opportunities to match your skills and interests. More than that, it can offer a connection to Penn Nursing that fills a need, as it did for Elissa Acevedo, RN, NU’16, GNU’22, whose term as Graduate Student Representative to the Alumni Board ended in 2022.
Acevedo returned to Penn Nursing to earn her MSN just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, simultaneously working as a NICU nurse in New York City. When the pandemic shut down Penn’s campus and transitioned learning online, she missed the sense of community that comes with interacting in-person with her peers. She says, “The thought of reconnecting with Penn alumni, tapping back into the goings-on of campus, and contributing to the future of the Nursing School excited me, but I was hesitant to apply to the Alumni Board. The time commitment seemed daunting, and self-doubt crept in when I questioned my qualifications.” As it turns out, it was the best decision Acevedo made—her time on the Board enriched her graduate experience and fostered her growth as a young professional. She volunteered to remain as part of the board after her initial term ended, this time co-chairing the Student-Alumni Connections Committee with Ellen Dreibelbis, AGACNP-BC, NU’11, GNU’20, GNU’22.
Acevedo, Dreibelbis, and their committee members are planning a number of virtual events and gatherings to help connect students and alumni, particularly after the pandemic impacted the Alumni Board’s reach—this includes a panel for early career nurses that will expose students to the wide range of opportunities for nurses at this stage and an advanced practice panel where alumni will discuss roles and responsibilities with students considering an advanced nursing degree.
The Student-Alumni Connections Committee is just one of many options for Alumni Board members. Alumni interested in finding out more about open Board or Committee positions should contact Nursingalumni@nursing.upenn.edu.
2 Alumni Interview Program
Penn Nursing alumni know first-hand what it takes to be successful in the School’s rigorous program—and that experience as an alum is invaluable when high school students are considering Penn Nursing as the springboard to their future.
The University of Pennsylvania is committed to offering an interview to every undergraduate applicant as a way of making Penn more accessible, and you can help make interviews possible for applicants to the School of Nursing. Participants in the program can choose a time commitment that fits their schedule—Stephanie Chu, CCRN-K, MPH, NU’10, for instance, does two-to-three interviews every month, which takes a total four or five hours when she factors in the written evaluation for each student interviewed. Chu has been involved with the Alumni Interview Program for a year and usually interviews as part of the Nursing Committee or QuestBridge Committee (QuestBridge is a program that connects the nation’s brightest students from low-income backgrounds with leading institutions of higher education, including Penn).
The interview process is relatively simple—reviewing a candidate’s resume to get a feel for their commitment to the activities listed, then formulating open-ended questions—but Chu says the most rewarding part for her is when a student looks at her trajectory to and through Penn and realizes their own dreams are possible. “My interactions with prospective students have prompted me to remember what my 18-year-old self set out to do,” she says. “It brought me back to the reasons why I became a nurse and was definitely a contributing factor in me making a career pivot to take part in the Penn Nursing Alumni Global Health Fellowship, which allowed me to spend three months working in Cusco, Peru.” She also credits the interview program with helping her to establish a closer connection to the Penn community—and provide a way for her to give back to the Penn alumni network that has made such a difference in her own life.
Interested in getting involved? Get more information from Monica Stepanow, Director of Penn Alumni Interview Program, at 215-573-3846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 Mentor Program
Put your career success to work as a mentor for Penn Nursing students or young alumni.
You don’t need to have forty years at the bedside or a high-level position to qualify—but you do need to have enthusiasm and a willingness to help others achieve. Formally launched in fall 2020, the program has made 150 matches to date, with mentors tasked with giving career guidance, school advice, and more. Matches are carefully made, based on area of need, duration of match, etc. In the case of Serena Luong, RN, NU’20, she was in the final semester of Penn Nursing’s ABSN program when she applied to be matched with an alumni mentor in California, seeking social support and guidance in anticipation of a move back to her home state. She says, “I was worried that I was at a disadvantage in the California job market because I did not have as many opportunities to network with nurses in California.”
Luong was matched with Isabelle Oka, RN, NU’17, who had once been in Luong’s exact shoes. They met over FaceTime at first. “It felt like she had been a friend that I’d known for a long time,” Luong says. “I felt very comfortable asking for advice and guidance in a time of uncertainty and change, especially since there was not a demand in the market for new grad nurses at the time of my graduation due to COVID-19. She was supportive, encouraging, and so knowledgeable.” The mentorship gave Luong confidence as a future nurse in a tight job market—and thanks to Oka’s encouragement, Luong was able to build her skills, resume, and network within California, and she found a job that was right for her. Their relationship has changed over the last three years, from mentee-mentor to friends—a great side benefit that often occurs among matched pairs.