Building Drake Connections

In a world of constant communication, alerts and notifications, and pings and dings that emanate from our laptops and the phones in our pockets, more meaningful, impactful interactions still undergird our basic human intuitions, needs, and dreams.

And the connections that happen at Drake eclipse anything beeping on your phone. But the seed of these connections is often planted with a new email or text notification.

Mary Edrington is an associate professor of practice in marketing and internship coordinator in Drake’s College of Business and Public Administration. She is also a connector, introducing students to alumni and pointing out opportunities.

“I love connecting my students with our amazing Drake alums. I find that alumni share insights and experiences in addition to providing opportunities for internships and job placements that help students apply what we do in the classroom with the real world,” said Edrington. She regularly sends the names of students to alumni.

Laurel Rundle, JO’91

Laurel Rundle, JO’91, knows when she receives an email from Edrington that introduces her to a student, it is a recommendation worth taking seriously. Rundle is the founder and CEO of AHA! Marketing, a leading point-of-influence marketing company that delivers powerful brand messages through health, wellness, nutrition, and pet influencers nationally. She is based in Chicago and also serves on Drake’s National Alumni Board.

Over the years, Rundle has mentored dozens of Bulldogs and has connected around 10 to jobs and internships. Her dedication to building these connections rests strongly with Edrington, her former professor.

“The main catalyst was Professor Mary Edrington. She was my teacher and advisor, then we stayed friends over the years,” said Rundle. “She always inspired me to stay involved and continues to refer students to me today, both to hire and to potentially work with on a client level as I own a marketing services company. I’m very grateful for her!”

Alayna Van Hall, BN’10, is one of the Bulldogs Rundle met through Edrington.

Van Hall came to Drake from Pella, Iowa, which is about 45 miles southeast of Des Moines. When selecting a college, she thought she wanted to go out of state, but a visit to Drake changed that. She enrolled at Drake and would go on to study abroad and graduate in three years.

Van Hall had a job lined up in Des Moines after graduating, but Chicago was still in her sights. Edrington connected Van Hall to Rundle. Out of this connection came an internship at Havas (a multinational advertising and public relations company, where Rundle was a senior vice president at the time). Van Hall made her move to Chicago and has planted herself there.

Both Rundle and Van Hall have moved on to different jobs and companies, but their Drake connection remains strong. The alumnae stay in touch and Van Hall often seeks Rundle’s advice on her career and navigating professional life as a young woman while paying it forward.

“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve tried to get Drake people in the door,” said Van Hall, who has connected Drake students to opportunities, other agencies, and clients. Many names come from Edrington, and Van Hall says if her professor gives a student accolades, they get hers.

“Drake has really intelligent and talented students who work really hard,” said Van Hall.

While getting students and recent grads into career placements is beneficial to current Bulldogs, the connections are mutually beneficial, for both places of employment and alumni.

“It’s the only way our businesses survive: attracting and fostering the best talent,” said Van Hall.

And maintaining a connection to Drake as an alumni has its perks.

“I have really enjoyed the sense of community I feel serving on the Drake National Alumni Board,” said Rundle, “Not only with my fellow board members, but also with Drake faculty, staff and other Alum across the country. There is something about a Drake bond that doesn’t require an explanation.”

Connecting Back to the Classroom

Ninety-five percent of Drake undergraduate students graduate with at least one internship or professional experience on their resume, and can also cite hands-on experiences, like CBPA Professor Carl Vieregger’s capstone class, in job interviews and cover letters.

Vieregger, an assistant professor of management, leads a capstone class that is a cohort of students and recent CBPA graduates who serve as mentors. Its innovative structure is designed to cap a student’s undergraduate learning while providing a bridge into the professional career world.

Thomas Stern, BN’16

Students in the class are assigned a company and work in groups to prepare a presentation that outlines the current challenges the company faces and proposes strategic recommendations to address the challenges. Alumni are matched to students and provide guidance and mentoring during the project.

“We were able to relate to [the students] because we were once in their shoes, but we now bring a real-life perspective to the cases they are working,” said Thomas Stern, BN’16, a mentor for the capstone course and a client service consultant at Holmes Murphy.

Leigh Conklin, BN’17, GR’17

For Leigh Conklin, BN’17, GR’17, it is an opportunity to pay it forward. Conklin is a certified public accountant and an audit and assurance senior at Deloitte & Touche, LLP.

“I am now in the position to be that person for someone else by investing just a small amount of my time the way so many did for me at Drake,” said Conklin.

Colten Hofer, BN’19, is a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch and saw the opportunity to become a mentor for the course as a chance to offer students something he experienced while at Drake.

“The reason that I chose to volunteer for this program is because when I was a student, the most valuable speakers, in my opinion, were those that had just entered the work force, ” said Hofer.

Colten Hofer, BN’19

Mentorship-based capstone courses like the one Vieregger teaches benefit the broader business community, too.

“One clear benefit of mentorships for businesses is shaping the educational learning experience of potential future employees,” said Vieregger. “Businesses also get an inside look at how students interact in a professional setting and can observe the depth of their thinking and questions.”

Your Turn

As alumni who go out from Drake into all corners of the world and into all industries, professions, and spheres, you sit in a unique position to be a conduit. Put your position into action by connecting with your college or school’s internship office or the University’s Professional & Career Development Services office.

The Drake Alumni Relations office also provides opportunities to connect with students and serve Drake. Check out what opportunities exist for you to collaborate with Drake and offer your time, talent, and expertise via the Alumni Volunteer Form.