Seventy-nine students and 48 alumni. That 1.65:1 ratio underscores the personalized attention students attending the annual Jepson EDGE Institute received on Sunday.

“The value of a Jepson degree is different for every person who graduates from this institution,” alumna Rose Wynn, ’14, said in her welcoming remarks to students and alumni attending EDGE. “This program today will help you explore what your unique Jepson edge is. We alumni have the same goal—to help you become leaders who will change the world.”

In 2013, the Jepson Alumni Corps launched a professional development program for students, which became known as EDGE in 2015. EDGE participants explore career interests and goals, develop skills and strategies, and gain valuable insight from Jepson alumni in a variety of fields—all of which enables them to exceed in their pursuit of internships, jobs, and graduate school.

Open to all Jepson School of Leadership Studies students, the institute targets juniors who are preparing for their Jepson internship. This year, 83 alumni helped plan EDGE, and 48 alumni participated in the event itself.  

On Feb. 17, after encouraging students to ask lots of questions throughout the afternoon, Kate Rezabek, ’02, addressed alumni, who had come from all over the United States and even, in the case of Djordje Hinic, ’13, from as far away as Serbia: “Challenge our students. Let’s help them get comfortable with being uncomfortable, because that’s how they will learn and grow. Share your stories.”

And they did.

Students participated in three one-hour, alumni-led workshops. All had to attend “Refining and Practicing Your Elevator Pitch,” a workshop designed to help students concisely articulate their unique Jepson experience and the value of their leadership studies major.

Rezabek introduced juniors to the elevator pitch in January during their internship class and asked them to craft a personal elevator pitch to bring to this workshop. Working 2:1, students presented their pitches to alumni for feedback.

Aside from this required workshop, each student attended two of the remaining three workshops: “Ins and Outs of Interviewing,” “What Can You Do with a Leadership Studies Degree?” and “Backpack to Briefcase.” Small break-out groups characterized these workshops as well.

For example, students in the interviewing workshop chose from three of five break-out sessions: business, nonprofit/education/government, arts and humanities, group interviewing, and graduate school.

“The people who stand out in phone interviews are those who give specific examples,” said Melissa Cramer, ’11, co-leader of the business interview break-out session, when asked about phone interview strategies. “Use vocal inflection. Make sure you’re in a quiet space. If you're Skyping, practice to make sure the technology is working before you interview. Dress up!”

Following the workshops, animated conversation filled Jepson Hall, as students met with their designated alumni mentors to learn more about specific employment sectors. This year, alumni introduced Shipmates, an initiative designed to keep mentors and mentees connected through the social media platform Slack.

The day concluded with a reception where students, alumni, faculty, and staff continued visiting and networking.

“I feel a lot more confident after today,” Tilley Neuhoff, ’20, said. “I am better prepared to move into the work world, having learned a lot of strategies I can use.”

Rebecca Goldman, ’20, agreed. “EDGE gave me great practical advice on how to be the best candidate for an internship or job,” she said. “It has inspired me to come back to Jepson to assist with EDGE when I am an alum.”

Students repeatedly expressed gratitude for the investment alumni had made in them.

“I didn’t come to EDGE expecting this,” Conrad Niebuhr, ’20, said, “but I left with an even greater sense of how valuable my Jepson education is.”