Jan 29, 2015
The Alumni Connection

When it comes to making contacts, try starting with your school’s athletic training alumni.

By Abigail Funk

Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning. She can be reached at: [email protected].

As an athletic training student, you have chosen a career that is full of caring, helpful professionals–people who not only look after their patients, but also their peers. Whether a colleague needs a second opinion on a diagnosis, help dealing with a difficult workplace situation, or advice on how to ask for a raise, athletic trainers are always willing to help each other out.

However, you don’t have to wait until you’re part of the workforce to tap into this network. As a student, you can look to your school’s athletic training alumni for assistance in many different areas.

“There are several reasons to get in touch with alumni from your school,” says Peter Koehneke, ATC, Director of the Athletic Training Program at Canisius College. “The first and perhaps biggest reason is that one of those individuals may be in a position to hire you down the road or offer you a graduate assistantship.”

Alumni can also help you land an internship or facilitate an opportunity to shadow an athletic trainer. “We have many alums working in the NFL who offer summer internships,” says Vincent Stilger, HSD, ATC, Undergraduate Athletic Training Curriculum Coordinator at West Virginia University. “But it’s up to our students to get in contact with them to secure a position. By not making that initial contact to inquire about an internship, students can miss out on a great experience.”

So how do you go about making the alumni connection? “One of the easiest ways is to start a mass e-mail group for all alumni and current students,” Stilger says. “The project involves doing legwork to find alumni, but everybody who was in the program knows somebody else who was, too. It will catch on and grow if you nurture it.

“We also have a newsletter to help build up our community,” Stilger continues. “It provides information about new hires, our newly accepted students, and recent graduates, as well as any awards or recognition our alumni have received.”

Iowa State University has a Web page where athletic training alumni can continually update their contact information. “We pay a little extra for the page off of our main site,” says Mary Meier, MS, LAT, ATC, Athletic Training Education Program Director. “But it has been well worth it for both our alumni and current students. They log in with a user name and password, so only Iowa State students and grads have access.”

While e-mail and the Web are quick and easy–and a great way to make initial contact–face-to-face meetings are also important. “Get to a meeting or convention,” Meier says. “It’s a requirement of our program that students attend two professional meetings in the time they’re here, but every student can and should get to a district, state, or NATA national meeting.”

Like many schools with athletic training education programs, West Virginia sets up an alumni party at the NATA Convention each year, to which undergrads are invited. “The trick is to not be shy,” Stilger says. “What do you have to lose by introducing yourself, talking about where you’re from, and so forth? You have an immediate connection through West Virginia, so go from there.

“I also encourage students to meet alumni whenever and wherever they can,” he continues. “I always like to hear that when a student of ours went to see an alum speak, they introduced themselves after the presentation.”

You can also take advantage of on-campus events involving alumni. Your school may have a general career networking night when all alumni are invited to attend, or your athletic training program may have its own department-specific event. And when one of your alums comes back as a guest lecturer, take a few minutes after the class to introduce yourself and thank them for coming to campus.

It may seem like a lot of work to go to a meeting, help start an e-mail listserve or newsletter, and seek out alumni for an internship, but it’s time well spent. Your alumni are a part of your school’s past and your future, and it’s never too early to become part of their network.


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