ASPIRE Program Launches for Alumni and Student Partnership

Oct 26, 2023

This fall, Assumption University launched the Alumni-Student Partnerships in Reflective Engagement (ASPIRE) program, offering new opportunities for students and alumni to connect over meaningful conversation and mentorship. 

ASPIRE began this fall through the Center for Purpose and Vocation (CPV), an office on campus that assists students on their vocational journeys. ASPIRE, along with SOPHIA (the Sophomore Initiative at Assumption), are programs designed for students to explore what they are passionate about and discover how those passions can translate into meaningful vocations.

“SOPHIA has been so successful for sophomores,” said David Crowley, professor of Biology and Director of the ASPIRE program. “But we lacked official programming that would allow juniors and seniors to continue to think about their vocation and how things are developing in their lives.”

ASPIRE thus became the brainchild of a team of alumni and faculty that included Crowley and Esteban Loustaunau, professor of Spanish and Director of the Center for Purpose and Vocation. Together, after receiving a Program Development Grant from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), the team built a program that seeks to build meaningful relationships between current juniors and seniors and alumni. 

Through these connections and conversations, undergraduate students are provided with an opportunity to begin thinking about and planning for their post-graduation lives. The ASPIRE program facilitates these connections through engaging events, including a kickoff social reception at a Worcester Red Sox game, “ASPIRE nights” on campus, and dinners with specific topics for students and alumni to discuss. 

Assumption University's ASPIRE program faculty, students, and alumni attend a Worcester Red Sox game.

“There’s no prescription for how we live after college,” Crowley said. “But it’s great to hear shared frustrations and shared experiences, especially from people who have been in our students’ shoes.”

The first ASPIRE night was held on October 5th, and conversation focused on what students could expect from life after graduation, specifically focusing on the development and maintenance of relationships.

“We discussed a lot of questions that make you think in that realm of like, okay, I’m going to be an alumnus soon, I have to start thinking about what comes afterwards,” said Noah Laren, a political science major from the class of 2024. “It’s good to know and understand that these are things that I should expect. A lot of the friends I have here…we may not be as close in two, three, maybe five years down the road. Understanding that things like that will happen is crucial.”

The students who attended the ASPIRE night also emphasized how important it is to discuss the different paths alumni can take after graduation.

“I thought it was really important to hear the variations of where they are in life,” said Kaitlin Merson, a marketing major with a sales concentration from the class of 2025.  “It was really eye opening, and I think it was also really important to establish those connections and see different ways of going about life and the different paths you can take.”

Alumni who attended the event, including Megan Evangelista ‘13 and Anthony Manzi ‘17, found that discussions were equally as rewarding for them as they were for current undergraduates.

“As an alumna, it’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day of life,” Evangelista said. “But to have a space where I could come back and really say, ‘yeah, those fears, those concerns, those anxieties were very real, and here’s how I overcame them, or met them, or realized they didn’t actually exist,’ was a nice moment of reflection.”

“It was awesome to be able to see students take the time out of their night to start thinking about life after college and engaging really intentionally,” said Manzi. “This program is really getting at the heart of the challenges and the changes that come with leaving college. It’s really great to be able to prepare students as much as possible and to make that next step less intimidating.”

The next ASPIRE night, planned for January, will focus on the importance of the liberal arts in relation to vocation, expanding on the idea that there are multiple pathways students can take after graduation.

“We emphasize especially to choose the major that you love, don’t focus necessarily on the career that will come along. The alumni at our event had completely different majors from what they’re doing right now, and they’re successful,” Loustaunau said. “They see the connections between, for example, their psychology major and the work they’re doing now. Your major is the toolkit for the things you’ll be doing later in life.”

“For lots of people, their major doesn’t match what their career is,” Crowley said. “We want to explore that idea; how is where you’re at right now in life being served by the core curriculum experience at Assumption?”

In addition to the alumni-student conversations, Crowley says that the program also aims to develop connections through community service. Some alumni involved in the program work at non-profits in the Worcester community, and Crowley and Loustaunau hope to help students and alumni build relationships through service.

“It’s scary; I thought ‘it’s just gonna hit me in the face when I’m out. And then I’m going to be left alone,’” Merson said. “But no, there are so many different things you can do and so many ways you can stay connected, and so many people want to help you. After these talks, I’m thinking, ‘oh my gosh, maybe I can do it.’”