Patrick Henry College
“You’re on the hill, right?”
“So are you engaged now?”
“So do they have different tracks now? That was new when I left.”
“All the professors I knew are gone now.”
Upperclassmen and recent alumnae shouted greetings and hurried toward each other. Faces no longer familiar, many clustered together, chatting and catching up. Graduated members of last year’s forensics teams stood in groups on the periphery, grilling those they left behind on this year’s prospects.
Not a gray hair among them, and—almost to a woman—they wore colorful heels with their jeans. These are the women of Patrick Henry College, past and present. Some had never seen the building in which they stand.
They gathered last month for the launch of Lydia’s Network, an organization in which alumnae will mentor current students, providing friendship as well as guidance, support, and practical assistance in building a contact network, finding internships, and applying for jobs and grad schools.
Lydia’s Network is the brainchild of PHC alumna Carmen Green, who named it after Lydia of the Bible, a powerful and successful business owner. Green had always wanted a mentor, especially as she went through PHC and the decisions leading to her career. She finally found one in her boss, a strong female attorney, at her first job after college. “She purposefully emulated what it means to be a strong woman,” Green said. “I wish I’d found that before I was 22.”
Now, Green seeks to ensure that current PHC girls do not miss out on similar opportunities. Her goal—admittedly high—is to hold two or three events a semester, in which she invites alumnae to give presentations and host panels and discussions addressing the needs of the current students.
Twenty-three alumnae attended the first meeting of the Lydia Network, branching every major—some, such as the Public Policy major, that PHC no longer has because they have morphed into other majors.
Alumna Carmen Green
One such Public Policy major is Mary Martin, PHC class of 2006, now working with Boston Consulting Group. Martin gave the inaugural presentation on networking, encouraging students to be proactive about building contacts, if only to gain information and understanding.
“I don’t know about you, but for me, pro-active networking feels a little more awkward.” She then quoted Alexis de Tocqueville, placing every woman in attendance instantly on common ground, reminding them networking is “self-interest, rightly understood.”
“The knowledge that I’m going to need help makes me really willing to help someone approaching me and asking for it.”
As Lydia’s network grows, the connections will continue to spread, eventually going both ways, as the women of PHC spread across the country, and the world.
The initial gathering was only the beginning of the network to be built. Laughter and conversation again rose to the Barbara Hodel Center’s vaulted ceiling as the professionals of tomorrow peppered their predecessors with questions and scribbled down email addresses.