By Josh McCartney

Special to The Denisonian

On Thursday, Sept. 17, 16 Denison Students boarded a bus to Cleveland, Ohio.  They were embarking on a unique and maiden voyage to connect with some 120 alumni from various corners of the working world. The evening began with a cocktail hour, during which time the alumni arrived, picking up a drink and a conversation with their nametags.

It was during the cocktail hour that student William Lull ’17 recalled a favorite interaction from the evening, “I met a fraternity brother in my field who has a son here and so we were able to make a connection over a lot of shared experiences.”

This first hour was the realization of the purpose of the event. Alumni and current students meandered about the eighth floor of the Key Tower, exchanging experiences, chatting about common interests in career fields displayed on the name tags that hung from their necks. However, the cocktail hour found a remarkable anomaly occurring, one that in hindsight should have been expected.

The Denisonians did not simply talk to those with similar interests, they branched out, delving deep into examinations of fields that they may never have thought to explore. There was no judgment passed if a pre-medical student spent the entire hour deep in discussion on the lawn care business. Ekow Thompson ‘16 embraced the diversity of the crowd, starting his first conversation with an alumnus who now works on a Christmas tree farm, despite his interests as a history major.

The theme of the evening, however, was not set until the second hour’s panel discussion heard the wisdom of Mr. Marty Erbaugh ’70, the CEO of JM Erbaugh and Co. Mr. Erbaugh charged the Denison students present with a simple bit of counsel asking that they “call [their] Denison network.”

The agreement from the crowd of alumni was obvious in their applause as they echoed his guidance, seeming almost to certify the fact that when that network is called upon, it will respond.

After a fairly extensive panel discussion, the students and alumni were split up into breakout groups that connected them together with others in their potential career fields.

Here, each alumnus was eager to share his or her token of advice that they likely wish they had heard in their college years.  The verbose and candid Mr. Marty Erbaugh related, “If you can figure out how to do something pretty well, figure out how to do it better, and better, and better, and better.”

With this, he almost defined the ultimate goal of one’s career, careers that Denison students have better access to directly because of their network of alumni who are excitedly awaiting the arrival of their resumes.

Student Andi Scarcello ‘17 echoed this notion saying, “it was comforting to become aware of a network of people who want to help us succeed in the real world.”

The experience of a community coming together to find local and national interests beyond the scope of the Denison bubble was beneficial.