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Maroon and Gold Network aims to give students path to success

The network allows students and alumni to connect and unlock opportunities.
Image by Emily Urfer
McNamara Alumni Center captured on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021.

The University of Minnesota’s Maroon and Gold Network offers help to University students and alumni with career-related connections and advice. 

The network is a free online networking tool from the University’s Alumni Association (UMAA) available for students and alumni to search for job opportunities by location, company and industry. 

Lisa Lewis, the president and CEO of UMAA, said the network was started to make it easy for students and alumni to connect digitally in a “non-intimidating way.” 

Marissa Smith, the associate vice president of engagement of the UMAA, said the platform makes it easier for students and alumni who are seeking career advice, networking and mentorship to engage with one another. 

“Students can join and find alumni to connect with for informational interviews, job shadowing opportunities and for the kind of conversations that open career doors,” Smith said.

Alumni can join the platform to give advice and share their experiences with current students or they can leverage it to find fellow alumni to connect with to advance their own careers, according to Smith.

Smith said there are more than 12,000 alumni across more than 70 countries who are currently active on the network.

“It’s just a really powerful and accessible way for our alumni around the world to stay connected to the institution and share their experiences,” Smith said.

Jessi Beyer, a 2019 graduate of the University, said she has used the platform to connect with other alumni which has been helpful. 

“Just having that connection of being alumni of the University of Minnesota was really great to get that door open, and people have just been so generous with their time,” Beyer said.

The network also provides students with the opportunity to work on projects, which are micro-internships supported by alumni, according to Smith.

“They are short-term professional assignments that can be completed in five to 40 hours,” Smith said. “Students can gain career experience, add a line to their resume and get a new connection with an alum.”

Muna Al Zubaydi, a 2023 graduate of the University, said she participated in a project through the network which allowed her to gain experience in marketing with a music composer as a student.

“For both of us, it was this learning experience,” Al Zubaydi said. “There was not a lot of pressure, and we gave each other room to experiment and be creative, which I really enjoyed.”

According to Al Zubaydi, she is still working with her project mentor on different projects and is grateful for the opportunities the network has given her. 

“This is an experience that you can use further,” Al Zubaydi said. “Even post-college, you can use it to secure a full-time job.”

All project experiences are either paid or unpaid, but Smith added the unpaid opportunities are supported through the Mooty Internship Scholarship.

According to Lewis, Bruce Mooty, who sponsors this scholarship, has a passion for helping students find their path, particularly if they have an economic obstacle in the way.

“Once a student has been selected for an unpaid project, they can apply for the Mooty Internship Scholarship,” Smith said. “We want to make it as easy as possible.” 

Beyer said the project she offered to students was unpaid, but the scholarship helped bridge a privilege gap between students who can afford to do unpaid work versus those who cannot. 

“Having the scholarship available really levels out the playing field for students, which is a good job that the University of Minnesota did with this program,” Beyer said. 

Richard Hinkie, who graduated from the University in 1968, said he wished the network existed when he was a student. 

“The closest thing I had to this network was a bulletin board in the journalism school,” Hinkie said. 

Hinkie has been involved as an alumni through the network, and he said he is happy to do anything to be of service to students.

Hinkie said he felt “paid back” by being a part of the network and felt inspired by the questions students asked and the depth of their curiosity about how the world works. 

Smith said community connections and networking make a difference for students as they navigate the transition from college to career, and having a tool that facilitates that transition is valuable.

“The Maroon and Gold Network is really about building social capital amongst all of our students,” Smith said. “The alumni network that University of Minnesota students are connected to is one of the biggest career assets that they have.” 

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