Cecilia Lona Walker Norris ’07 at the 2019 Career Expo
The Power of the Pomfret Network
It's more important, and more helpful, than ever before.
In April, the US unemployment rate soared to 14.7 percent, the highest the nation has seen since the Great Depression. Though the job market appears to be stabilizing — maybe? — most experts are predicting a very slow recovery, which means landing your next career opportunity will require, in all likelihood, a strong network.
That's where Pomfret can help. Back in 2011, during his tenure as President of the Alumni Association, Paul Fowler ’64 presented the Advancement Office with an idea. “I saw real value in introducing Pomfret students to the career network before they graduated,” says Fowler, “and the Career Expo was a great place to start.”
After discussing the idea with Director of Reunion Engagement Tammie LaBonte, together they approached then Assistant Head for Academics Kate Caspar to review how they could incorporate the Career Expo into Pomfret’s student programming. On February 10, 2012, the first annual Pomfret School Career Expo was held. “The event was a huge success,” says LaBonte. “Thirty-six alumni returned to campus to share their experience and expertise with our juniors and seniors.”
“I feel like I’ve gained more from the experience than I’ve given.”
— Mike Zurbrigen ’82
Over the last nine years, the Pomfret Career Expo and Career Network have connected hundreds of Pomfret students and young alums with alumni experts in their fields. Ryan Saunders ’19, who is currently pursuing his Bachelor’s in Business Administration at the University of Miami, recalls meeting Mike Zurbrigen ’82 when Mike presented at the 2018 Career Expo. “I chatted with Mike during the Career Expo networking session,” remembers Saunders. “He was from my hometown, so I struck up a conversation. I didn’t necessarily think it would lead to anything.”
But this spring, when Saunders’ summer job opportunity fell through, he remembered Zurbrigen and reached out to him. That connection resulted in Zurbrigen offering Saunders a paid internship at his company, Euro-Wall Systems, LLC. “I’m always happy to help a fellow Pomfret alum,” says Zurbrigen. “Honestly, I feel like I’ve gained more from the experience than I’ve given to Ryan.”
“The Expo offers our alumni an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with students and the School,” says LaBonte. “Many of our alumni mentors became involved out of gratitude for the mentorships and guidance they’ve received from alumni before them.”
Luke Paskovich ’04 is one such mentor. When he was in his first year of architecture school in 2009, the economy was still reeling from the Great Recession. With many firms on hiring freezes, prospects were limited for internships in his field. He reached out to Pomfret's Advancement office hoping to make contact with alumni architects willing to connect. He was put in touch with Mark Simon ’64, founding partner of Centerbrook Architects and Planners.
“Mark offered me a brief externship that winter, followed by a paid internship the following summer,” says Luke. “It was a great professional experience, but also a personal one as I developed relationships with several of the people I worked with, which led to further professional advice and mentoring. And it all began with a one cold-call email from an eager student to a willing fellow Griffin.”
Luke now serves as a career mentor through the Pomfret Career Network, and has returned to the Hilltop twice to take part in the Pomfret Career Expo. “The Pomfret network is a large and powerful resource when people make the effort and engage.”