125 and counting:alumni account for sizable number of employees

Tess Curran | Co-Executive Editor | tcurran3@mail.smcvt.edu

Twenty-nine out of the approximate 125 alumni employees gathered in the Roy Room on Monday for a group photograph. PHOTO BY TESS CURRAN

Throughout the years, alumni have come back to work at St. Michael’s College in different capacities. According to the Office of Human Resources, 125 out of the total 602 employees are alumni. . Seeing the large number of alumni employees it is clear that there must be a reason for so many returning to the college. Whether they graduate in 1986 like Chris Kenny, director of athletics or in 2020 like Assistant Director of the Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts (MOVE), Vicki Castillo,  many return no matter how long it has been. 

“I think the underlying theme has always been that there is something very unique and special about the community,” said Angela Armour ’99, executive director of institutional advancement. 

The path to returning as an employee is different for all, for some it can be leaving, coming back and working in different positions throughout their time here. Armour, who is an alumni twice over; undergraduate in ’99 and graduate in 2009 had a winding path to returning to St. Michael’s. After an internship at Colgate University, Chris Kenny ’86, current director of athletics, was at the time assistant athletic director called Armour and offered her a job in sports writing. Armour originally had no intention of coming back and wanted to get out of Vermont, which is her home state. “And then I came back and there’s zero regrets…As I’ve gotten older, I appreciate being here more,” Armour said. Armour left her sports writing job after a few years but returned later to assume the role of alumni director and has stayed at the college since. 

Vicki Castillo graduated in 2020 and joined the MOVE team on campus in August of 2021 as assistant director. Originally, Castillo returned to Virginia after graduation and later received a call from the school stating that a position had opened up. “I wanted to go back to Vermont and when they called me, it felt like everything fell in place,” Castillo said. For many alumni, St. Michael’s College can feel like a safe space or home that makes them want to return and help the college further its success. “I think this place, like St. Mike’s, looks at who you are and tries to connect you with things that make sense for who you are or what you want to know more about,” said  Heidi St. Peter ’96, director of Purposeful Learning. 

Another aspect that pushes alumni to return is the bonds and experiences they had as students. “I found that I loved connecting with other people and I think some early experience in that was definitely in student activities in the orientation program and then later in the MOVE program,” said St. Peter. Many alumni, including St. Peter, have said that St. Michael’s allowed them to learn more about themselves whether through clubs or service trips. St. Peter went on a post-graduate service trip with the Edmundites to Alabama. “I went and did that for a year, that was really transformative,” St. Peter said . 

St. Peter’s time at St. Michael’s has helped her go from student to employee in many ways. After the service trip, she went to the University of Vermont for a graduate degree in higher education, which partnered her with St. Michael’s to work as a Resident Director. The combination of that and the service work pushed her to work with students via the MOVE office. “Working with college students again but doing service work and volunteering, being able to have the best of all worlds,” she said. She said all the different roles and ways to meet students reframed her outlook on the job and St. Michael’s. “It’s a place that you can stay because you notice that you can still shift and change a lot,” said St. Peter. 

Anya Sonwaldt ’22, an IT system administrator, joined IT as a student worker and later switched to a full-time position after graduating. “I grew so much as a person and most of that was because of my experiences and friends here at St. Mikes,” said Sonwaldt. “I decided to continue as an employee because of the community and atmosphere here.” 

Going from student to an employee can be a big change for many. Armour said she has a better understanding of why things happen the way they do when you are an employee instead of a student, overall seeing the value of the St. Michael’s education. In Armour’s time here as an employee, there were once five people from her class of 1999 all working at the college, although she is now the last one. Sonwaldt spoke about the transition from student to employee, saying that it has been an interesting one for her. “Seeing former professors and not saying “Hi professor: and rather just using their first names has been weird but it’s getting easier as time goes on,” said Sonwaldt. 

Having alumni on campus can also be a benefit for not only the students and employees but for the community. “ I think having so many alums brings a different perspective for employees that they might not see otherwise,” said Sonwaldt. Coming back can give the alumni employees opportunities to grow in an environment that they have previously learned from and flourished. “I think that’s what’s really special is that St. Mikes has provided an amazing springboard for a lot of alums, starting here and then going off to build a really amazing career,” said Armour.