Northwestern University is taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to connect students with its extensive alumni network. The Austin J. Waldron Student-Alumni Connections Program has partnered with AI data company Protopia to create the “Ask A Wildcat” program, which allows students to ask Northwestern alumni for career advice.
The program, which launched at the beginning of the Fall Quarter, features a user-friendly interface that prompts students to input a headline, introduction, question for the alumni, and closing sentence. Students can ask any questions related to academic or professional development, including postgraduate pathways, startup advice, assistance with class projects, and internship guidance.
Upon submitting a question, the AI-powered program shares the request with up to 25 relevant alumni. In three to ten business days, the student and alumni are connected via email. The program also provides students with a “cheat sheet” on how to follow up with alumni.
Mirabella Johnson, a senior from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is a tester for the Waldron Connections Program. She commends the program for harnessing the power of AI to facilitate connections between students and alumni. Johnson received a response from an alum within hours of submitting her question and believes that the program will make it easier for students to seek advice without the initial awkwardness of starting a conversation.
Lauren Malenfant, another senior from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Waldron Connections Program Student Council, found the program incredibly beneficial. Malenfant asked the program how Northwestern experiences had prepared alumni for their current careers and received responses from alumni working in completely different fields. This versatility allows students to gain insights from various industry professionals.
Established in 2013, the Waldron Connections Program has been helping students explore potential career paths by connecting them with alumni. The program organizes alumni panels, professional skills development workshops, and on-site visits to Chicago.
Sara Pena Figueroa, a sophomore from the School of Education and Social Policy, believes the program will be particularly useful for students in her concentration due to the wide range of career options available in her field.
Cassie Petosky, the director of alumni engagement and the Waldron Connections Program, established a relationship with Protopia over the past few years. Protopia’s AI model is specialized for Northwestern’s platform, ensuring it can accommodate the large student body and sprawling alumni network. Petosky hopes that students will turn to the program whenever they have questions and are unsure who to ask.
By leveraging AI technology, Northwestern’s Waldron Connections Program is empowering students to connect with alumni for valuable career advice and guidance. The program not only simplifies the process of seeking mentorship but also provides a diverse range of perspectives from alumni working in different industries. This AI-powered initiative is just one example of how technology is enhancing the educational experience and fostering valuable connections within the Northwestern community.