Davidson Discovery Initiative: Connecting Students With Alumni

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Davidson senior Bethany Kirkpatrick ’19 describes her experience with the Davidson Discovery Initiative and the impact it has on students and alumni alike.

For the past three years I’ve served as an Alumni Engagement Ambassador for the Davidson Discovery Initiative (DDI) program. While DDI has only existed since 2014, in its five years of existence the program has already connected current Davidson students with 270 alumni. Based out of the Office of Alumni and Family Engagement, DDI hires a cohort of students (Alumni Engagement Ambassadors) to reach out to Davidson alumni in their hometowns for interviews over winter break. The interviews typically cover topics such as how alumni feel about their time at Davidson, how their lives have proceeded since Davidson, how they perceive the school today, and what they hope for its future. Through this program alumni get to reconnect to Davidson through its students, and student ambassadors get to meet those who have gone before them, learning more about the school’s history and gaining valuable connections to the alumni network.

As an Alumni Engagement Ambassador I have focused on the Nashville area and have met with 12 alumni in total. Each year I’ve had the opportunity to meet people across professions and age brackets, alumni as removed from Davidson as 1983 and as recently as 2014. All of the alumni I have spoken with have been both eager to talk with me about Davidson, and candid about their experience, and I’ve learned from their wisdom and words. Thanks to my proximity to Vanderbilt’s Peabody School, many of the people I’ve interviewed have had careers in education, but I’ve also learned much more about healthcare consulting and venture capital market research than I ever could have predicted.

The alumni whom I’ve interviewed had diverse experiences after Davidson, with some going directly from a major into a career and others taking more circuitous routes to the careers they now call their own. Alumni are unified, however, in their support of the Davidson Trust, their excitement about Davidson’s move to the A10 conference, and their grief over the loss of free laundry for Davidson students. That last particular grievance gave me opportunities to talk to about the laundry’s replacement: Lula Bell’s Resource Center, an on-campus hub for grocery-store food on meal swipes, textbooks, interview clothing, and hygiene items. Alumni’s great interest in and appreciation of Lula Bell’s showed me that many were concerned about how Davidson is adapting to meet the needs of a diverse student body—another commonality. One great area of difference showed in their discussions of Davidson’s future. While some urged that Davidson prioritize STEM or technology and innovation, modernizing to meet current job needs, others passionately defended the value of humanities and the liberal arts education itself, particularly in the face of the movement for career-prep majors. Regardless of their opinion on the matter, alumni were consistently invested in the future of the college and how it prepares students for their lives after Davidson.

I leave three years interviewing Davidson alumni profoundly grateful for the people who came before me and who continue to invest in the school. Many of the alumni I met serve as members of the Davidson Career Advisor Network to provide students with career advice, and they asked me to let students know they not only could, but also wanted to be a resource down the road. I’m excited for the future of Davidson Discovery Initiative as it continues to connect the Davidson family across generations, and I wish good luck to the students coming after me!

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Bethany Kirkpatrick

Bethany Kirkpatrick '19 is a senior History major and Educational Studies minor from Franklin, TN.

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