Zags helps Zags resonated outside the bounds of Gonzaga’s campus over winter break as students connected with alumni on the Seattle and Portland Career Treks.

On Jan. 7 and Jan. 9, the Career and Professional Development Center, in collaboration with the GU Alumni Association, immersed students on excursions to different Seattle and Portland-based companies.

They are days filled with networking, information sessions and an insider look into prospective companies. From corporate giants like Microsoft and Amazon to regional healthcare organizations like Cambia and Oregon Health and Science University, the Treks are advantageous to any and all GU majors.

“We look for organizations where we have GU alumni who can advocate for us with their employer to host an excursion,” said Brittany Leland, director of the Career and Professional Development Center in an email. “We like to make sure we have a variety of employers represented at each Trek, so there will be something of interest for students from each of the colleges. That includes nursing/pre-med and arts and science students, which some people may not realize.”

The day is kicked off with a two-hour career fair, where students can network with alumni and better understand what opportunities are being offered, whether it be internships or full-time post-grad positions. Afterward, students head to lunch and company excursions. 

Excursions range from 90 minutes to two hours. The day is wrapped up with a networking dinner followed by a keynote speaker.

For the Seattle Career Trek, Angela Jones J.D., CEO of nonprofit Washington STEM and a GU alumna, sang a melody filled with gratitude and later connected it to how she defines success. Her words bonded both alumni and students alike as she stressed the need to advocate for other students.

“That common bond that you share with an alum or a friend of the university means they will help,” said Drew Rieder, director of regional chapters with the GU Alumni Association. “If they can identify a need, the alum will automatically start talking about, ‘OK, well who do you need to connect with, what do you need to know, what are you interested in?’ Alums just want to help because they understand the other side better than anybody.”

Julia Donovan, a 2018 GU grad, found success at a Career Trek she attended, which ended up launching her into her career.

“Without the GU Career Treks, I wouldn’t be working at my dream job. Through the Seattle Career Trek, I was able to connect with SAP Concur at the Women Lead Breakfast and during the job fair,” Donovan said. “In meeting recruiters and sharing my passion for giving back to local communities, I was encouraged to apply for an internship.”

After applying and participating in the interview process, Donovan was offered an internship on the people connection team as the community outreach intern.

“If it wasn’t for that initial introduction at the Career Trek, I wouldn’t have discovered the incredible opportunities that were available through SAP Concur’s internship program, iXp,” Donovan said.

Through this program, she engages in GU’s mission on a daily basis by overseeing employee volunteering, nonprofit partnerships and supporting diverse talent.

According to GU’s 2018 First Destination Survey Report, Donovan is just one within the 76% of her class who found themselves employed upon graduation. In 2019, GU ranked No. 1 among colleges and universities in the state of Washington for percentage of alumni with jobs, according to a recent report from Zippia.

Rieder said this is a testament to the culture and integrity GU cultivates in its students.

“I think GU students are different. I think it’s liberal arts, it’s a Jesuit education. It teaches our graduates to think, to lead, to problem solve, to build community,” Rieder said. “It puts them a notch above other graduates from other systems just because of what they know coming out. Their ethos, their identity, and also their understanding of this mission to serve other people. I think that comes across in the interviews they have.”

Donovan encourages students to attend because success stories like hers are not uncommon. She advises students to use the experience to connect with as many GU alumni as possible.

“It’s true that Zags help Zags, so building a network with the GU community is always a great place to start,” Donovan said. “Also, when you’re back on campus, utilize the incredible resources that are available like the Career Center, and even talking with professors about future career goals. You never know which conversation could lead you to your dream job.”

Rieder extends gratitude to all those involved in giving students such valuable experience.

“The whole [Career] Trek program hinges upon our alumni’s loyalty to us when we call and ask for their help,” Rieder said. “It’s a beautiful collaboration, really, between the Alumni Office and Career and Professional Development Center.”

Valerie Fetzen is a staff writer. 

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