The cap and gown are not the end of the road for Lehigh seniors, and some plan to stay involved with Lehigh post-graduation.
Many want to extend the same helping presence that they received from Lehigh’s network of alumni while students.
“During the freshman rally when you see all those really old alumni coming in and walking around with their flags, you don’t hear about that at other schools because the alumni care so much about the undergrad and they want to see us all succeed,” said Lisa Sanquini, ‘20.
That moment stuck with her because she felt the encouragement from both alumni she already knew and alumni she didn’t know. It was something special, Sanquini said.
Jennifer Cunningham, the assistant vice president of engagement for Development and Alumni Relations, said Lehigh has about 85,000 alumni around the world.
“It’s a really nice size where you still feel like an alumni family, but it’s large enough where it’s so diverse and in so many corners of the world, and in so many professions, and social interests,” Cunningham said. “What I have found about the Lehigh network is that it’s so strong, and just about any alum that you call or email will email you back and try to help.”
Stephanie Huynh, ‘20, has built a relationship with the alumni community throughout her time at Lehigh. One way she has done this is by working for the Lehigh Liners, where she manages student callers who contact alumni asking for donations.
Another form of involvement for Huynh has been working at Lehigh’s Career Center, where she used Lehigh Connects to get career advice from an alumni. She said Lehigh Connects is similar to a LinkedIn, but exclusively for Lehigh students and alumni.
It’s up to the graduates to take advantage of creating a relationship with alumni and to decide to be part of this group, Cunningham said, emphasizing that it is the best thing graduates, and even current students, can do.
When Huynh graduates, she wants to reach out to students, or if somebody reaches out to her, she will provide them with advice as best she can. She wants to do anything that she can do to give back, she said.
William Pemberton, ‘20, president of Lehigh’s graduating class this year, said he has also received professional help from alumni.
“I very much see myself playing the same role that those alumni played for me, post-graduation,” Pemberton said.
These seniors are planning to pay it forward and help current students at Lehigh, since they know what it feels like and how useful the connections can be.
Growing up surrounded by Lehigh alumni, Sanquini said she knew coming to Lehigh that they would be a big help to her.
“I knew that post-graduation, I was going to be able to have a support system because everyone that I knew that had already graduated had kept in touch with all their friends,” she said. “And for those that have been involved in Greek life, also have made bonds that have lasted past the four years that they spent at Lehigh.”
Cunningham said she believes the reason so many people choose to stay involved is because they had such a great experience while they were at Lehigh, and it’s a part of their life that became a habit. It’s comforting to have connections with people who went through the same things, even if it was at a completely different time, she said.
“If you’re a Lehigh grad you should keep in touch or have relationships or have pride in knowing other Lehigh grads, and the Lehigh network is very strong,” Pemberton said. “I think it does transcend global borders and why not continue to participate to strengthen that and contribute to it.”
He said he expects that the class of 2020 will want to come back in the fall more than ever to finish the quintessential Lehigh experience that they didn’t get a chance to have because of the coronavirus.
Huynh said she wants to continue some Lehigh traditions even after graduation, such as the Le-Laf football game.
“We’re all going to be in the same place at the same time, and we can relive our college memories by going to an event that we’ve gone to for the past four years,” Huynh saud. “I think that’s important just to keep the continuity with the tradition and also stay connected with your friends.”
Things have changed a lot since most alumni graduated, but there is a lot that hasn’t changed, such as the Lehigh personality and the ethos of working hard, Cunningham said.
The campus may look a lot different from when past generations have attended the school, but the Lehigh character has remained a constant and brings pride to alumni looking at the achievements of their peers as well as those that came after them, Cunningham said.
Lehigh has many pathways that students can follow to stay connected with the school and each other after graduation. There are events around the world, ranging from social opportunities like telecast parties for the Le-Laf game to professional networking events.