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STEP Club aims to enhance student-alumni interaction

By JULIA FELICIONE | November 1, 2012

Founded in September, the Students Transforming Engagement and Philanthropy Club (STEP) seeks to aid students with recognizing and establishing integral relationships with the Hopkins alumni community through community service, career fairs, professional workshops and nights on the town. The organization was founded by sophomore Asia Coladner, seniors Mami Aronson and Louisa Drake and Development and Alumni Relations staff.

"Right now students aren't really in contact with alum at all so we're trying to build that foundation," senior Emily Feder Cooper, who is currently leading the organization, said. "Johns Hopkins is a community, and communities do extend beyond four years on campus. Community should start the moment you get here, even perhaps when you get your acceptance letter and its something you can take with you for the rest of your life."

STEP will be an aggregate of three specific subcommittees: STEP Up, STEP Out and STEP Ahead. Each subcommittee will be responsible for the planning and execution of alumni-related events. STEP Up, an expansion of the JHU Step Up committee, will be in charge of Homewood's annual Step Up Week.

"We're moving forward with STEP Up the way it was ... it'll still hold Step Up Week in the spring," Feder Cooper said. "STEP Up is stepping up to the plate, understanding what philanthropy means to this school. Through our events, we try to instill this culture of loyalty to the campus. After all, the Johns Hopkins University itself was founded on a philanthropic donation."

STEP Up  plans to expand upon its service events from the fall this spring.

"This year we're hoping to our 'Totes for Tots' drive in the fall, along with 'Thankful Thursday' , where students write thank-you notes to contributing alum,” Feder Cooper said. “We're going to replace those service events with similar things in the spring. Ideally, we would like to still be promoting the giving-back aspect of philanthropy."

Step Ahead, in contrast with Step Up, will allow students to not only recognize connections with alumni, but also to establish professional connections of their own.

"STEP Ahead is orientated towards careers and is focused on networking events, educational workshops...alumni will work to give students more ideas about what they might want to pursue in the future or to help them actually kind of map out their career paths," Feder Cooper said.

STEP Ahead will make its debut in Feb. 2013, with the advent of Hopkin's first alumni-only Career Fair.

"We want to have a panel and so people would talk about what they studied and what they did and then you're going to have a chance just to go to people within those industries and give your resume and ask specific questions you know that we think is going to be a really nice way to start formulating relationships between students and alumni," Feder Cooper said.

STEP Out, unlike its business and philanthropy-oriented counterparts, will focus on social engagements.

"It can be something from as simple as going out to dinner to going to the theatre to going to an Orioles game to going to the Hopkins Mansion to work on the restoration,” Feder Cooper said. “Regardless, you're stepping out of the campus bubble and engaging with alumni in different non-Hopkins settings."

While STEP Out has no formal plans in place, Feder Cooper insists that alumni are very interested.

"I already have the contact information for this woman who lives in the area who gets theater tickets at a discounted rate so she's more than happy to take a group of students to the theater," Feder Cooper said. "Alum are really interested and they are in contact with my office quite regularly with their expression of that interest [in STEP Out] so it's more about being organized right now and figuring out where we want to start."

The STEP club, as a whole, is still very much in its developmental stages and is still seeking both SAC club recognition and much-needed monetary grants to fund their ambitious goals. However, aided by students,  the Office of Alumni Relations and Aramark, the school's catering service, Feder Cooper is positive that the club will succeed.

"I think a lot of people at Hopkins get very immersed in what they're doing day-to-day and don't find the time to connect with people whether that's in their homes or in their hall or whether that's with alumni and what's really beautiful about what this group can offer is kind of a break from this Hopkins campus world and more into the Hopkins...the outer world of Hopkins.”

Updated on Nov. 12 to reflect the correct name and founders of the organization.

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