Career Services and the Northwest Alumni Association are working together to host Chat with a Cat, a weekly lunch series where students have the opportunity to meet with Northwest alumni.
The meetings are 12-1 p.m. every Wednesday in a reserved area of Bearcat Commons, in the lower level near the faculty section.
Director of Partnerships and Placement Jill Brown explained the purpose of Chat with a Cat.
“Chat with a Cat is an opportunity for students to visit with Bearcat alumni and friends in a casual setting,” Brown said. “Selecting majors and first jobs can be stressful; the goal of Chat with a Cat is to allow current students to visit with individuals out in the ‘real world’ about their jobs, their time as a Bearcat and get advice on how to make the most of their time on campus.”
Guests have included Brian Lynn, Assistant student services director for the Maryville R-II School District, City Manager Greg McDanel and Linda Place, a retired educator. Upcoming visitors include general manager of the St. Joseph Mustangs baseball team, Ky Turner, Northwest senior marketing specialist, Katie Machovsky, and a Northwest human resources generalist, Michelle Drake.
“It was really kind of fun to actually be on campus and just be in a setting that’s not so professional,” Lynn said. “It was kind of nice to just chat with people and hear things like, ‘Why did you choose to come to Northwest? or ‘Why did you choose education?’ or ‘What’s your plan for the next couple years?’ in a more casual setting more so than if I’m interviewing a student and asking those same type of questions. It was a neat atmosphere.”
Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving Robert Machovsky shared why the Alumni Association thought Chat with a Cat would be a positive addition for students to learn and network.
“Northwest Alumni Association wanted to find a way for students to benefit from alumni and friends who are established in their career,” Machovsky said. “Providing opportunities where students can learn from those who have gone before them is something very powerful and unique that our students can take advantage of.”
Brown echoed how important it is for students to make connections when searching for a job.
“My goal is for students to grow their network of Bearcat alumni and friends,” Brown said. “When a student comes to see me about their job search I often ask who knows they are looking for a job. … If it’s just their parents and me, that’s not enough people. The more people who know what you are seeking, the more likely you are to find it. The alums who are attending want to help students succeed, and can be yet another great contact going forward.”
Chat with a Cat allows students to interact with potential role models in their field of interest, which Lynn said is extremely valuable and rare.
“Just being able to ask questions and probe a little bit and to just have that atmosphere, I don’t think you necessarily always get that,” Lynn said. “When I was a student, I didn’t really have a lot of people I could come and ask questions about their profession in a more casual way. For me, that was important to be able to provide that.”
Chat with a Cat aims to benefit not only students but the featured alumni as well. Brown said it provides an engagement opportunity on campus, allows potential employers to get a feeling of student culture and shows them why they should continue hiring Northwest graduates.
Lynn confirmed how mutually beneficial the opportunity was.
“It was another opportunity for me to get to go on campus and interact with students in a more casual setting and just be able to invest in our students,” Lynn said. “Because honestly, it’s good for our school district, and it’s good for students on campus. I think it helps build partnerships and build relationships."