This spring I had the pleasure of co-hosting alumni receptions at three different New York companies: Estee Lauder, Lafayette 148, and Ralph Lauren. Our goal, first and foremost, was to provide our alumni an opportunity to get to know one another as FIT alums. We have been surprised to learn from our corporate partners that many of their FIT employees simply do not know that there are other–sometimes many other–FIT alumni working for that company. That actually should not surprise us. This is New York after all. You can live in the same building for years without knowing that the fellow on the elevator with the yellow tie comes from your hometown…or that your upstairs neighbor graduated from your alma mater, too…or even works for the same company. So these receptions acted as a kind of mini-FIT homecoming–an opportunity to meet, share reminiscences…and to network.
At the same time, we also wanted to introduce our alumni to all of the services and opportunities available to them from our alumni office–no matter how long ago they had attended FIT. In fact, many had studied here anywhere from 10 to 30 years ago–and the college has changed so dramatically, even in the last ten years–that we wanted to provide an update as well.
At Estee Lauder we were hosted by William Lauder and Jane Hudis global brand president at Estee Lauder, who is a member of the FIT Foundation. Deirdre Quinn, founder of Lafayette 148 and a member of our board of trustees hosted us at her company showroom and Joy Herfel, group president, wholesale and retail for the Americas at Ralph Lauren, an FIT Foundation member and an alumna, hosted us at Ralph Lauren.
Each of these companies employs many numbers of FIT alumni (at Ralph Lauren, there are currently over 300)–and as you can imagine, they work in every capacity and at every rung on the career ladder.
At Lafayette 148, one of our most recent graduates–Ana Swarup ’13– took briefly to the mic in the showroom to talk about her enthusiasm both for her alma mater and for her employer, where she is assistant to the VP of sales and retail service. Ana originally interned at Lafayette 148 and then like so many of our student interns, she was offered a permanent job.
At Ralph Lauren, where we were treated to a tour of the Purple Label, Black Label and Polo Men collections, one of our alumni brought in a suit she had created many years ago for her senior project that used a Ralph Lauren pattern. She didn’t get an A, she said, but she did get a job at Ralph Lauren–where she has been happily employed for many years.
The gathering at Estee Lauder was a little different from the other two since it was designed specifically for graduates from one FIT program: the Master of Professional Studies in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management. As a group, they work across various brands, regions and functions. Nevertheless, they have developed a kind of internal alumni association–meeting on a regular basis for professional and social events, networking and learning from one another. And through that basic FIT bond, they continue to give back to the college–lecturing in our classrooms, attending capstones, and serving on various MPS committees. Their mutual FIT history benefitted them and us–and I hope their “association” can serve as a model for our alumni at other corporations.
If there was one thing all of these graduates had in common it was their passion for FIT. They felt privileged to have studied here, and even if they had not stayed in touch, their enthusiasm was palpable. It was something of a love fest, because at all of these gatherings, I felt such pride–each of our alumni is a walking advertisement for FIT.