Accomplished alumnus offers advice for making the most of Lafayette experience Twitter
By Stephen Wilson
When searching for colleges, Lafayette at the time was somewhat of an enigma and the last one Matt Grandon ’12 looked at. He knew he wanted a small liberal arts college with strong academics, especially in his areas of interest: history and foreign languages.
He wasn’t even out of the car when he could feel the inescapable draw: This was the place for him.
From that moment, he dived in. Not a long, shallow dive either, but rather headfirst off a cliff.
He applied, attended Experience Lafayette (XLC), enrolled, double majored in history and Spanish, minored in women’s and gender studies, interned with the College’s president, served as Student Government president, was selected as a Pepper Prize finalist, and completed an e-portfolio as part of his senior capstone that is still used today by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
And that was just warming up.
After donning the cap and gown, he has served the College and alumni community as a chapter president, Gateway Career Center speaker, co-chair of the Young Alumni Committee, Class Fund manager, Wine 3/9 host, and most recently as a trustee associate.
Sounds like a full-time job, but he has one in the development office at Harvard, where he happened to earn his master’s degree.
His dedication to the College and alumni community earned him the Clifton Mayfield 1909 Award for outstanding service to the College.
“My own story is deeply entrenched in my experience at Lafayette, which in turn has inspired me to build a career in higher education,” he says.
He credits the College with helping him find a community, create opportunity for transformative experiences, and allow him to be in service to others.
Here’s his advice to alumni for how to take advantage of your Lafayette career.
No. 1: Connect with local chapters.
Go to events and foster connections with alumni. When I was working in Philadelphia, the programs catered to a wide variety of alumni. Representatives from seven decades of Lafayette alumni came to our events. Such diverse events allow you to connect with individuals who have wildly different experiences but who also share a distinctive commonality. As a young alumnus, I found it powerful. It was through the local chapters where I learned to become a leader in the Leopard community.
No. 2: Invest a few hours.
There are only a few traditions each year, like Homecoming, the Rivalry, and Reunion, that take a few hours of your life, but clearly display the power of the Lafayette community en masse. Show up. The investment in time is small compared to the memorable moments that occur at events like these. Of course, there are other geographically oriented events and great networks like GatewayLink that are similar in the time-to-value ratio.
No. 3: Small gifts make an impact.
Working in development, I know that money is a personal topic, but the questions I think alumni have to ask themselves are these: Do I value the institution for what it has given me, and do I trust it to effectively use the funds to better the community? Many think they can’t make an impact with a small gift, but they add up fast and clearly communicate that alumni believe the institution is doing good work for the right reasons. As an example, the accumulation of participation gifts results in millions of dollars worth of support. That is far from insignificant.
No. 4: Never be afraid to wear spots.
When I wear my Leopard gear, people come up to me to talk about their connection to the College … even if they tell you they went to Lehigh. These conversations are an opportunity to build something meaningful, even if brief. That might sound a bit cheesy, but it’s important to uncover the connections between people that you might otherwise never see. And there is usually a great story which follows.
No. 5: Pay it forward.
The people at Lafayette make an impact. They have invested so much in me that I feel it important to pay it forward. Think of the students, professors, administrators, and coaches who made an impression in your life. All that they have given to us obliges us to help others in the same meaningful ways.