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At Speed Networking Night, it’s a Handshake Followed by Bullet Points


Fordham University’s Executive Leadership Series adopted a new format on May 4 as members of the President’s Council, alumni and students took part in the University’s first “speed networking” event at the New York Athletic Club.

Some 50 mentors and mentees participated in brief but effective four-minute exchanges that touched on career objectives, life experience and a bit of personal chit chat—all in a format modeled after the popular “speed dating” concept.

The evening, which was sponsored by the Office of Development and University Relations, was dubbed “Networking Made Simple.”

“It’s definitely a younger platform,” said Bill Lee, FCRH ’00, chairman of Fordham’s Young Alumni. “The idea of speed networking builds on a generational preference. It gives mentees a chance to pitch their ideas effectively.

Mary Jane McCartney, TMC ’69, a retired vice president with Con Edison,above, and Mike Delfino, GBA ’72, greet young alumni.

“The biggest disconnect between a recent graduate and a working individual is that the working person has had the benefit of experience to construct an image of who he or she is,” Lee said. “For these young people, being able to sit in front of each of the mentors for a few minutes helps them become better acquainted with their own strengths and weaknesses.”

Mentor Mike Delfino, GBA ’72, a partner at Pinnacle Associates, was new to the speed networking structure but seasoned at mentoring.

“I‘ve been participating for several years in the executive leadership events,” said Delfino, who was one of 18 council members who spoke to nearly two dozen mentees in a rotational format. “I get a lot out of trying to help young students position themselves in these tough economic times.  It’s as fulfilling for me as it is for them.”

“I already have a job, but I want to know what opportunities are out there,” said Kleona Vozhilla, FCRH ’08. “I can use the tips and the advice.”

The event included alumni mentors from the areas of finance, law, architecture, human resources and real estate. Most mentors said they would try the format again.

“The students are so energetic and exciting, always looking for insights,” said Ed Morrissey, CBA ’79, a partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP. “One good thing about the speed format is that there is not a lot of time to waste. It’s ‘Here’s my story, and here’s what I am looking to do.’ I found that students were comfortable having that conversation.”

“They were a bright and personable bunch,” said George McCartney, FCRH ’68, LAW ’74, vice president and general counsel at Nippon Life Insurance of America, “and they asked questions.”

The idea for a speed format came from the Office of Alumni Affairs, said Director Caitlin Tramel. “The executive leadership series is usually in panel format, but we wanted to provide some one-on-one time for alumni.”

For Laura Vawter, a GBA senior, that one-on-one format proved most effective.

“It is nice to have dedicated time with a mentor, especially if someone is not yet skilled at networking,” she said. “Sometimes it can be a daunting task to try and break into a conversation at a cocktail party, trying to meet someone.”


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