Yale Daily News

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, the Office of Career Strategy has seen a boost in alumni engagement, leading to more opportunities for Yale students in all schools.

Throughout the years, alumni have been involved with OCS in many different ways — including mentoring students directly, providing career guidance and hosting panel discussions. These outreach efforts have increased significantly in the past year, with more alumni reaching out to help mitigate the pandemic’s adverse economic effects.

According to Jeanine Dames, director of the Office of Career Strategy and associate dean of Yale College, one indication of alumni engagement is the OCS Preferred Yale Partners Initiative, a program through which alumni can post internship and job opportunities directly to Yale students. Since the beginning of the fall semester, more than 100 opportunities have already been posted through this initiative, compared to the typical 25 to 30 opportunities that would be available at the same point during a typical year. 

Further, a group of alumni founded Friends of Yale from Industry — a new group dedicated to creating job and internship opportunities for Yale students through partnerships with several companies — last May.

“In recent months, many alumni have stepped up their game,” OCS Director of Employer Relations David Halek wrote to the News. “With news last Spring of canceled internships and postponed start dates for full-time roles, alumni were inspired to lend a hand to ensure students could pursue their career goals.”

According to Halek, the founding of Friends of Yale from Industry was one recent example of increased alumni involvement. FYI — which was founded by Shah Karim ’81 GRD ’07, Vishal Agrawal ’96 MED ’02 and Richard Kayne MED ’76 — seeks to connect industry leaders directly with undergraduate, graduate and professional students at Yale.

Karim said that he, along with Agrawal and Kayne, have always been passionate about “[improving] Yale’s vision with industry.” For the three alumni, the pandemic was an immediate call to action that led to the founding of FYI.

“I was on a Zoom with some other alumni leaders, with [Dean of Yale College] Marvin Chun, and he looked us in the eye and said, ‘I plead with you to help my students find jobs,’” Kayne said. “And that was the call to action that we’ve been working on.”

Karim noted that in the past, employers typically focused their recruitment efforts on particular schools at Yale — such as the School of Medicine or Yale Law School. FYI’s vision, in contrast, is to help companies engage with all of Yale’s schools at once, creating a “talent pool accessible across the entire University.”

Agrawal emphasized that the job and internship opportunities created through FYI are designed specifically for Yale students and involve close mentorship by an alumnus or a “friend of Yale.”

“These aren’t jobs that would have ever appeared on any traditional job board,” Agrawal said. “These are opportunities that were created for Yalies, where there is someone at the employer who has some interest in that role in that person’s development.”

Karim added that most of these opportunities are exclusive to Yale students — a feature that he said is “highly unusual.” Karim added that by talking directly with company executives, FYI has developed relationships not only with organizations that typically hired Yale students, but also with employers that were not previously affiliated with Yale and had not traditionally recruited at the University.

Kayne said that the virtual setting of the pandemic has also allowed the group to connect with alumni in ways that would not have been possible before, such as bringing together Yalies from several different continents at once. According to Kayne, the pandemic has advanced the possibilities of student-alumni engagement.

One student involved with FYI is Yiwen Shi GRD ’22, a first year biostatistics graduate student who interned at Saferock — a strategy and analytics firm at which Karim is the founder and CEO — from September of last year to this February. During her internship, Shi worked on a statistical analysis project exploring demographic patterns in COVID-19 cases and met twice a week with Karim.

“[FYI] gave me the opportunity to connect directly with a leader [in industry],” Shi told the News. “[The] program is really good in making connections, especially for new students during the pandemic.”

Although FYI was founded in response to the pandemic, the group plans to continue advancing their mission through the newfound platform.

In particular, Agrawal said that in the long term, FYI is interested in connecting industry leaders not only with Yale students, but with faculty as well through supporting their research.

“We run this like a company board,” Karim said. “Our objective is, ‘what can we do to help students,’ firstly, [and] ‘what can we do to build bridges [from industry to the University].’”

OCS and alumni organizations will feature four Yale College alumni in a panel discussion titled “A Candid View of Investment Banking” on March 24 as part of the Yale Career Panels series.

Zhemin Shao | zhemin.shao@yale.edu

Zhemin Shao covers the University's endowment, finances and donations. He previously covered the Office of Career Strategy. Originally from Seattle, WA, he is a sophomore in Silliman College.