It was an opportunity to break bread, gain confidence and practice a little networking.

Current HEOP students and staff gathered in the Norm on December 2 for a dinner with several Siena HEOP alumni. 

Yalitza Negron ’08, assistant director of academic counseling in HEOP, said the event allowed students to engage with alumni to learn how to best navigate the post-pandemic “new normal,” both in their academic life and in their job searches. The dinner was tailored for freshmen and seniors, who were also able to experience a few rounds of in-person speed networking.

“This was the first time most of the students ever had to do any kind of networking,” said Negron. “It was a brand new skill, and a great way for them to foster connections with alumni and discuss career opportunities. They can see the alumni as mentors, as guides and people they can lean on.” 

Miguel Alvarado ’05, assistant director of financial aid at Siena and former HEOP student, was the keynote speaker for the dinner. Negron said he was selected because “he understands their own personal investment in this journey.”  Alvarado encouraged the students to make plans early for their next steps, whether that is an internship, graduate school, or a job hunt. 

“What I have learned in life, both personally and professionally, is that it is more impactful to get people to self-identify their obstacles and courses of actions. This results in a deeper understanding of oneself,” he said. “Our biggest battle is the battle from within, as we are reactive by nature, placing survival, safety and comfort as a failsafe. This is why I stressed we must dare to be great, which means we must be comfortable being uncomfortable in every environment. Success is never owned; it is rented and payment is due every day.”  

Alvarado said meeting with the current HEOP cohort was “very emotional and nostalgic.” 

“I once stood in the same shoes as these future leaders,” he said. “The atmosphere was very personable, and the dialogue shared among everyone was rooted with substance, purpose and goodwill.” 

The HEOP team plans to launch a series of virtual meet-ups this spring with current student and alumni. 

“Seeing people who were once in your shoes have success in their respective fields brings hope that maybe one day, I’ll be in a successful position just like them."

Tyron Bethel ’23

“I talked to many people in the business world and was able to receive a lot of insight and overall motivation. I saw people there who really reminded me of myself and the capabilities I hold. These events give me a reason to continue to push on forward with my goals.”

Abdou Fofana ’26 

“It’s especially meaningful seeing how they are doing now. It is motivation for me to give my best and utilize their advice.” 

Madeline Chino Salas ’26