Interview with alumnus: On starting an alumni association during the master’s thesis (and why it was worth it)

When I first arrived at KI, one of the first events we were invited to was the Alumni Homecoming Day organised by BEACON. I sat down with one of the founders, Christopher Domnick to talk about the event and how it got started….

First of all, where does the name BEACON come from?

BEACON stands for Bioentrepreneurship Alumni Connections.  Its the acronym for our new alumni association.  We also  want  to do as the name suggests and be a BEACON that attracts attention from students and alumni alike , like ships to a harbour (you can check out their website here).

You started BEACON whilst doing your Master’s thesis.  Surely only a madman would voluntary double their workload 😄 How did you come up with the idea? And what made it so appealing?

My friends from the program Erik, Colin, Sebastian and I went on a kayaking trip last summer to the archipelago just before we started our PP2 (practical placement 2, read about it here).

Sebastian had graduated, we were all moving to different countries (check out last year’s PP2’s) and we wondered is the last time we will see each other? And we hated that thought!  There were no organised reunion events for us at KI, and we thought wouldn’t it be great to have one for Bioentrepreneurship alumni?

Over the next few weeks, we just couldn’t let the idea slide. 18 months later, we have the first MBE alumni association and have had our first reunion event!

So aside from the chance to see your friends again, what other benefits do you see to have an alumni association?

The most important thing you can do during your time at KI is build your network; two of my classmates got their PP2 through a chance meeting with alumni.  We see BEACON as a chance to grow your personal network, if you want to work in a particular company, industry or even start your own business – then alumni can give you a way in.

We also want the program to be as well known in industry as possible and of course, the best people to promote the program are the alumni who have graduated from it. One panel member said her employer was always asking to find someone ‘just like her.’

I had a great time at the Homecoming Day. It’s obvious you wanted to start with a bang.  What was the thinking behind this event?

The Homecoming was always the core concept of our idea. As we said, we were looking for a way to see each other again! We thought of it as the heart of the operation  that would encourage both student and  alumni to develop a connection to our association.

We had exciting key note speakers Anna Nilsson Vindefjärd and Carl Johan Sundberg who were instrumental in starting the MBE programme. There was also a panel discussion with invited alumni about how the program has helped their career. Afterwards I could finally relax. We had some food and later headed to a nightclub for some dancing (you can read more about the event here).

I’ve seen the cheesy grins (and moustaches) from the photo booth pics Were you as happy with the event as the photos imply?

There were times we doubted we could pull it off and to be honest, we are still astonished with all the positive feedback from the event.

We had to reach out to alumni from across the globe. We have 5 graduated classes, 2 current classes and 197 students in total. 93 people attended which blew our expectations out of the water. One of our speakers flew in from the UK and we had someone plan her business trip from Germany around our event.  One alumnus even flew in from China!

Sounds like you’ve had an impressive start. What’s next for BEACON?

We have lots of ideas for the future.  We want to create an alumni archive so you can login and contact old classmates. If the event is the heart of the organisation, then this archive will be the backbone. We want to network more outside of Sweden and get alumni involved in teaching. There are so many possibilities!

BEACON wouldn’t work without dedicated student participation.  We hope that BEACON will continue to grow as each new intake of students get involved.

Did you have support from KI for your initiative?

KI have been very supportive with general connections and advice.  I also want to say specific thanks to the UBE staff, KI career service and the education support office. Also to all the first (now second) year students who joined the team. Without them, the Homecoming Event would never have been possible.

As you are an alumnus of this program. Do you have any advice for students applying right now?

I think you need to show, with your extracurricular activities, that you have an interest in the business side of life science. In my opinion demonstrating you are not solely focused on science will go a long way for your application. Show your motivation and be willing to look over the edge for new opportunities. Good Luck!

Thank you to Chris for agreeing to be interviewed for this blog.

Email: rosa.willock@stud.kie.se

Facebook: Rosa Willock

Linkdin: Rosa Willock

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