New College’s popular and successful Dinner@NEW program has gone virtual in 2020. Since 2011, New College has been inviting alumni from a range of professions to share their academic trajectories, career and life experiences, and to provide guidance to students over a shared meal.

The series successfully adapted to an online format in the spring with a dinner specifically for graduates of the Class of 2020. To keep the spirit of the in-person event, students received Skip The Dishes gift cards so that they could still enjoy their meals together. This fall, the series continues as an opportunity to engage students and esteemed alumni in career development conversations and also as a unique way to grow community.

We have seen a fantastic amount of interest and participation from our students in two recent events this fall. On October 28th, 30 undergraduate students participated a dinner focused on careers in law and was co-hosted by alumni Barry Glaspell (New’81), one of Canada’s most experienced class action lawyers and a long-term mentor with the College’s Career Mentorship program, and by Milomir Strbac (New’13), a corporate and commercial lawyer who was Barry’s mentee in 2012. Milomir was also one of the first students to attend Dinner@NEW when the program launched. On November 12, we hosted 26 students in a virtual dinner with Alan Greenberg (New ‘83), a renowned investor, developer and manager of residential real estate and an industry leader in introducing green technologies into residential developments.

During the virtual events, the students and alumni mentors have come together in animated discussions. As the group shared dinner together, the alumni spoke to students about their non-linear paths to finding successful careers in their respective fields, the importance of finding their passion, remaining adaptable and flexible, be continuously open to learning, and the importance of networking and mentorship. Students submitted questions in advance, and Principal Bonnie McElhinny acted as moderator, bringing forward engaging discussions.

“In 2011, when Dinner@NEW was launched, we could not have imagined that nine years later, we would be hosting successful virtual editions of the program, given our emphasis on this being an intimate, in-person event,” says Brenda Registe, New College’s Alumni Development Officer. “We always relished in the exchanges between our alumni and students. With COVID-19 continuing to impact our community, we knew we had to re-imagine the work we were doing, to ensure we engaged our alumni and students alike.”

The success of the Dinner@NEW virtual events highlights the importance of career mentorship, especially during this time, and growing opportunities to inspire connections and community development. It also reflects the meaningful and lasting connections that are made through the mentorship program.

With another dinner planned specifically for graduates of the Class of 2020 on November 19, the series continues to connect students and alumni during this uncertain time at home. Additional events will be planned in the new year focused on specific industries and career paths as opportunities for career development and community building.

“The response from our students and young alumni are a clear indication that this a valued program/event, which grants them access to explore and discover what it takes to achieve success,” says Registe. “The number of students participating in the virtual edition has grown exponentially and we know with certainty, the value of this program is immeasurable.”

Stay tuned for more upcoming events to share with students in the College community.