Akshar Patel (CE ’13) knows what alumni want, and he’s making it his mission to ensure that they get it. From the first moment he came to campus as a senior in high school, Patel, who wanted to study architecture, knew Illinois Tech was the place he was meant to be.
“I took the train, got off the Red Line at 33rd Street, saw the skyline, and that was the moment I knew—if I wanted to learn how to build buildings, this was the place to learn how to do it,” he says. Although he ultimately ended up studying civil engineering rather than architecture, Patel says he wouldn’t trade his college years for anything. Which is why it’s no surprise he ended up coming back to his alma mater two years later to accept a career development coach position in the Career Services Office.
“After graduation, I went to Vermont and began my career in the undergraduate admissions office at Champlain College,” Patel says. “I had started a master’s program at the University of Vermont and planned to finish my master’s thesis remotely, from Chicago. I figured I could finish the writing while working at Illinois Tech, then fly back to Vermont to defend it, no problem. It actually took me a year to finish, but I’m so happy I stuck with it.”
Patel says his dream was to come back to Illinois Tech to work after he graduated, and he was blown away by the sense of connection he felt when he returned in 2015.
“[It] was an exciting time to be at Illinois Tech, with President [Alan] Cramb’s inauguration and the first Global Spirit Day,” he says. “It was fun to see those things through a different lens as a staff member.”
As a career development coach, Patel worked with students and alumni to build connections and networking opportunities. He helped recruit companies to the career fair events and coached students about their futures. But Patel knew he wanted more.
“As a career coach, it was difficult to see alumni only come back to the university when they needed help. I wasn’t seeing alumni celebrate their successes and talk about the great things they’ve done,” he says. “Our alumni are doing amazing things, but they don’t always think about how they can come back to share their news.”
Patel recently saw an opportunity to change that when he accepted a new role at the university as director of alumni engagement and giving programs in 2018. “I see this position as an opportunity to help alumni connect with the university because I’m an alumnus myself; I understand what alumni are looking for. This is personal for me. It’s less of a job and more of engaging with people who share the same background as me,” Patel says.
This fall he will begin traveling around the country hosting alumni events in various regions.
“The Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship is the most exciting thing happening on campus right now,” he says, “and the plan is to bring that excitement on the road and to share the new building and programs with people who can’t necessarily come to campus to see it in person.” Patel also plans to increase college collaboration and grow the alumni online community and available resources.
“The thing I’m most excited about in this new position is the relationships that I’ll build with alumni. I’m looking forward to being able to connect them with their fellow alumni and students—future alumni,” Patel says. “I hope that my phone will be filled with new contacts and people I can reach out to who want to make Illinois Tech an even better place.”
Have an idea for an alumni engagement opportunity? Let us know!
Contact Akshar Patel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312.567.7149 to discuss new ideas for alumni events, collaboration opportunities, and networking initiatives. Visit alumni.iit.edu to view alumni resources and connect with the Alumni Association online.