Should auld acquaintance be forgot…

As we enter a new year, the refrain of Auld Lang Syne continues to ring in my ears. Reminding me of a group of people who are often forgotten as educators reach out to industry to support their programs.

Who are you probably overlooking? A most familiar and affectionately-held old acquaintance: Your former students!

If some of your former students have moved into professions related to your program, you could not ask for better partners. These are people who have experienced your program firsthand and are currently living with the realities of their chosen profession and industry. If your focus is on program relevance, can you think of anyone better suited to tell you how well your program aligns to modern day realities? Former students are ideal advisory board members for that very reason, calling on their past experience with you to advise you on better connecting your program to industry.

What’s more, former students are perfectly positioned to help you build new industry relationships. Just imagine having a former student going to their supervisor and saying, “If you’re looking for more people, I’d like to introduce you to the head of the program I went through. They got me interested in and prepared for this field; if you work with them, you can build a whole new generation of qualified people.” Can you imagine a better connection and endorsement?

And what about having former students talk with your current students directly? I’ve heard so many stories about former students pulling up to a school in their uniform and new car, with students in awe as they hear an alumni talk about being in their shoes a few years ago and what kind of doors it opened up for them. It makes a huge impact.

Years ago, it used to be difficult to stay in touch with former students. But now, with established technology platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, it’s common for former students themselves to reach out to former teachers to maintain a relationship. Solicit and cultivate these relationships and friendships, and make an ongoing effort to invite these former students/current professionals back into the fold. Your students and program will benefit tremendously as a result!


Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of the National Center for College and Career (NC3T) ( NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance, and tools. These strategies help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.