Penn State Smeal Business Clubs capitalize on connections and collaboration
Their initiatives include professional development events for growing numbers of alumni in each of those cities. Smeal Business Clubs form regional connections to collaborate with Penn State alumni from other colleges, Penn State alumni chapters, as well as graduates of other universities to form business networks in their respective cities.
A guiding force behind the success of these clubs is Smeal’s Alumni Society Board Affiliate Programs Group Task Force. This committee helps strategize the growth and quality of the clubs. It assists by creating processes and resources for the clubs to use for managing the organizations.
“Our committee strives to be a resource the clubs can count on to ensure success”, said Mike Cocco, immediate-past chair of the APG Task Force. “It’s so inspiring when we get all of the club leaders in the same room, and they help each other solve challenges and recognize opportunities. This type of collaboration and teamwork is the Penn State way."
Since 2015, the groups have held 29 events that were attended by more than 1,000 alumni spanning a wide range of industries and career stages. The five established clubs have a combined total of more than 2,000 active members. Some recent event themes included: cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and real estate, as well as resume and LinkedIn workshops.
Those same clubs have embraced partnerships across a broad spectrum, including collaborations with:
- Real estate, finance, and sustainability units within Smeal
- Other Penn State Alumni Association chapters
- Other Penn State colleges and units, including Penn State Law and Arts & Architecture
- Other institutions, such as The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
While most Penn State graduates are familiar with regional alumni chapters, Smeal Business Clubs bring a professional focus to local communities. Many peer business schools implement this regional chapter model. This model has been a great success for Smeal, and the number of business clubs has doubled in the past two years.
“Smeal’s innovative regional approach to organizing APGs extends the reach of the college beyond University Park,” said Paul Clifford, chief executive officer of the Penn State Alumni Association and associate vice president for alumni relations. “Their model flexes the power of the Penn State Alumni Network in the regions that are critical to our success."
A State College-based Central Pennsylvania Chapter will launch soon. And while there is enthusiasm about other clubs, associate director of alumni relations Alan Schaffranek advocated for strategic growth.
“The excitement around the success of Smeal’s regional initiatives has sparked interest in new territories across the nation and abroad. This impressive appeal has helped the APG Task Force determine consistent criteria to launch new clubs and foster strong connections with local Penn State Alumni Association Chapters,” Schaffranek said.
Outgoing Alumni Society Board President Jim Brandau agreed that the success is exciting and helps further the mission of the Board.
“Our Smeal Business Clubs are critical for providing a connection for our alumni back to Penn State, and specifically, the Smeal College. Our Alumni Society Board is thrilled about the work that is being done in these cities. We owe a lot of gratitude to our alumni volunteers who run these clubs and dedicate their time to Smeal."