Alumni leaders: hajim young leadership council

Alumni Leaders: Hajim Young Leadership Council

TIMELY INSIGHTS: As young graduates, Pershing (left) and Schwertz (right) say they can provide an up-to-date perspective on engineering.

Katie Schwertz ’08—an optics major turned senior designer at Edmund Optics—lives in Tucson and wanted to stay involved with the University after graduating but wasn’t sure how.

About five years ago, the Hajim School asked her to join a new group, the Hajim Young Leadership Council, whose goal is to connect alumni through educational opportunities, provide networking, and keep the school’s faculty members and leaders up to date about the state of the engineering industry. She has been on the council ever since.

“It’s a great way to keep networks open, create and sustain connections, and give back,” says Schwertz.

John Pershing ’10, a computer science and math double major who now is vice president of software engineering at 1010data in New York City, has been involved from the early days, too. His engagement began when he volunteered for a Hajim class that undergraduates are still required to take, called Communicating Your Professional Identity. Part of his current job involves hiring interns, so staying connected with students helps tremendously.

Schwertz and Pershing are two members of the group, which includes about 25 people and runs like a collective—without official leadership or a chair or cochairs. “Our structure works well,” says Pershing, noting that people can be as involved as their schedules allow.

Both say they appreciate being able to make a difference for future engineers. “As fairly recent graduates, we can provide timely insight into what skills job candidates need and what’s happening in the industry now,” says Schwertz.

The council also organizes alumni events geared toward engineers. In 2017, the group hosted a behind-the-scenes tour of New York City’s South Ferry Subway Station before it reopened to the public. (The station had been flooded and closed for renovations after Hurricane Sandy.)

“We strive to offer our alumni experiences they can’t get elsewhere,” says Persching.

Jim Zavislan, the Mercer Brugler Distinguished Teaching Professor and associate dean for education and new initiatives at Hajim, says the group’s feedback has been valuable as the school evaluates its programs and initiatives. “The council mirrors in many ways the evolution in how people do business.”

For more information about the council and its programs, visit the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences website.

Kristine Thompson, May 2019
This article originally appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Rochester Review magazine.