As a junior, Janel Robinson was toying with the idea of going to law school. But what was an attorney's life like? How difficult was it to juggle a family and a career? For answers, Robinson, '97, turned to an "alumni mentor," San Francisco attorney Kathleen Stewart, '86. Their talks gave Robinson an insider's view of a young lawyer's life. When she decided to apply to law school this fall, it was a more informed choice.
Chalk up another success for STAN, the Student Alumni Network, which sponsors the mentor program. Last year, more than 200 Stanford students sought advice and insight from alumni mentors. It's just one of the ways STAN builds bridges between students and graduates. The organization, which is sponsored by the Stanford Alumni Association (SAA), also throws parties, coordinates student-alumni brunches, puts on career panels and bestows an annual award for community service.
"Student-alumni programs are really the heart of the organization," says Kim Bluitt, '92, who directs the program for SAA. "They get so much out of meeting and getting to know each other up close and personal."
The 40-some students who volunteer as STAN members become leaders on campus and, later, as alumni. This fall, for the second year, the Admissions Office trained STAN students to represent the University at college fairs throughout the Bay Area. Previous STAN officers have gone on to become presidents of Stanford alumni clubs. Steve Kafka, '91, who headed STAN in 1990-91, launched the Stanford Club of Sweden and last year served as president of the alumni club in the Boston area.
Every spring, STAN organizes a popular series of student-alumni brunches. Students sign up for a home-cooked meal and the chance to talk with alums working in fields from the arts to medicine. Undergrads can glimpse life after Stanford, and alums catch up on the newest dorms, classes and java drinks at the Coffee House.
Also in the spring, STAN chooses a winner for the Pierce Award. The prize goes to the creator of the campus project that promises to most benefit the Stanford community. This year, the $1,500 award will be used to maintain and expand an archive of African-American accomplishments at Stanford. The collection includes articles, music, art and papers, and will be housed in Ujamaa, the African American theme house.
The average student probably notices STAN most during dead week, when the organization delivers as many as 600 care packages purchased by parents and friends for $15 to $18 each. While most students are hunched over their books and notes, trying to cram in a quarter's worth of problem sets, lectures and reading, 20 STAN students gather to create the stress-busting goody bags. They fill the packages with granola bars, muffins, whimsical toys, even personal photos, and then deliver them across campus.
The $2,000 or so raised by selling the packages goes toward STAN's $12,000 annual budget. A $6,000 contribution from SAA and a few fund-raisers covers the remaining costs for everything from advertising and photocopying to class events and parties.
If you'd like to sign up to be a mentor, host a brunch or participate in other STAN activities, contact Kim Bluitt at (415) 725-STAN or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather Carlson, '94, is a reporter for The Argus in Fremont, Calif.