Welcome to the Corvias Connects blog! Corvias Foundation scholars and alumni contribute to this blog to better support and connect our group.  We hope you find the posts to be interesting, helpful, and inspiring. Be sure to check for new posts each Thursday evening.  If you have suggestions or are interested in joining the blog project team, please feel free to contact us. Happy Reading!


The opinions and views presented on this page do not reflect those of Corvias or Corvias Foundation but are independent presentations of each writer’s voice.


Corvias Foundation Alumni Summit 2019

Somehow another Corvias Foundation Alumni Summit has come to an end! This weekend, alongside the NASPA conference, a large group of Corvias Foundation alumni were able to come together for a week of personal, professional, and philanthropic development. Sometimes it is difficult to explain exactly what Foundation summit’s are all about, but I think that it does boil down to our three P’s of relating to each other on a personal level, addressing a topic related to professional development, and doing something that aligns with our philanthropic goals. When it comes down to these three pillars, this year was definitely a success!

Our alumni flew in throughout the day on Friday to Las Vegas and all explored the city in their desired ways! Some went to events while others spent time in their rooms getting ready for the busy weekend, but we ALL took advantage of the delicious food that Las Vegas has to offer. The actual events of our trip started on Saturday when we brought our group of 39 alumni to Three Square to do our service project. The mission of Three Square is to provide food to those who are food insecure in the southern Nevada area, meaning that they are not assured three filling meals a day. They emphasized the idea that many assume that most of these people are homeless and elderly, but we learned that 62% of children are food insecure; I think this resonated well as many of us work with, or for, children in our alumni group. We took multiple different positions with some people doing “cardio” (aka lifting bags into a giant box to be distributed), those who packed different food items into the bags, some called “straighteners” who made sure that the bags stayed in line so that 72 bags could fit in each distribution box, and a few more. Our group, along with a few other volunteer groups, ended up preparing 573 bags for the over 271,000 food insecure people in the greater Las Vegas area!



Later that day we had our session with Selena Walckner, the HR specialist and “Talent Strategist” at Corvias. As always, she tailored our conversation to make sure that she told us the main points that were important to her but also addressed the questions we had and made sure we got what we wanted out of the session. She talked about a few large topics when it comes to HR and the professional world: what companies look for in a resume and how we can tailor ours to stand out, interview tips and tricks, and how important feedback can be, both negative and positive. I think that as our alumni group increases in maturity (aka age!), we are more receptive and appreciative of professional advice and opportunities for development. While many alumni are in steady jobs that they enjoy, many of us are on the hunt for a new job, trying to navigate laterally or upward in our current jobs, or searching for ways to improve their daily job performance and inspire coworkers to do the same.

In regards to resumes, Selena said point blank – be authentic, do not make your resume frivolous and difficult to read, and even if a past experience doesn’t seem relevant to the job you’re applying for, use the skills you’ve learned and show how they can be transferred to this opportunity. She also emphasized two concepts: one, refine and adjust your LinkedIn to be the best reflection of yourself and your accomplishments, and two, start making a list of your accomplishments whether they are things you have tangibly accomplished or things that other people have relayed to you. When you look back at your list, you can reflect on the things you did well, highlight them in your job hunt, and hopefully gain insight into things you can relay in an interview.

Interviewing was an area of interest of our group as many of us are joining the working world and you can’t really get a job without nailing an interview! It is important to remember that you are interviewing the place of employment just as they are interviewing you, and you want to make sure it is a good fit. It is important to learn of the culture and expectations while putting your best foot forward. She had a lot of experience with being an interviewer, and said that while tactical skills are important, the interviewer is really listening for your ability to engage, problem solve, demonstrate how you learned from your past experiences, your level of motivation, and your communication skills. She also acknowledged that in terms of salary requirements or expectations, many people refer to Glassdoor to see what a reasonable number would be for compensation, but suggested using Salary.com instead based on their business model differences.

Lastly, we talked about how to interpret feedback, whether it be positive or negative. First, it is important that you ask for feedback when you are ready to receive it and from someone from whom you will be able to constructively receive it. Sometimes feedback can hurt, especially if you are expecting something positive and instead receive something negative, but if you are seeking it out and ask someone that you respect or truly want to receive advice from, it will be handled in a better manner. In addition, if you seek out feedback instead of waiting for it to come to you, you are being proactive and acknowledging your areas of strength and weakness and come off as looking to better yourself. One great piece of advice she expressed was to carry around a notebook and take note of the feedback people give you; if you look back at your notes and ultimately see a trend, you could attempt to work on that on your own.

One quote that really stood out to me that she said was “You’re in the job you’re in – connect to that position until you’re not”. As someone who is undergoing a career change, I think this is very important. It is great to have a good resume and interviewing skills, but you have to also accept where you are at this point in time and allow yourself to live in the moment. If you are unable to accept your current place, you won’t appreciate what you went through once you get to where you want to be.

Saturday night we all enjoyed a night at the Rosina Bar where we were able to eat, drink, and socialize with each other. We had great conversation, were able to meet and hang out with the significant others who came to Vegas with their alumni, and enjoy our time together as alumni who are all in different places in life. It was a beautiful setting and we are all so thankful to the Foundation for allowing us to spend that time together!

Sunday morning we had our session that focused on the future of our alumni network. While we all agree that we enjoy getting together for alumni summits and spending time together in amazing locations, we have to look towards the future and adapt to a group that was once only a handful of people but is now growing by 10-12 people each year. We broke out into smaller groups and talked about how we can put our goals into action as alumni and then how we can better serve the scholars in our group. I won’t go into too much detail as those ideas and the information we gathered will be put into action and relayed to all Foundation scholars and alumni as things come together. As always, it was a time of brainstorming, being grateful for what the foundation has provided, and looking forward to what we can give back in return.

This event was a little unlike the others as we did not leave with a tangible idea of when we will all see each other again. Until then, this event was successful in filling our cups and connecting with one another until our next meeting. We are so grateful to John Picerne and the whole Corvias Foundation for their instruction, generosity, and guidance both over the years and into the future.

Scholar Spotlight: Gary Zhu

2011 Corvias Foundation Scholarship recipient Gary Zhu is a proud graduate of Northwestern University who chose to stay in the Chicago area after graduation. Gary shared has shared his experience entering the field of management consulting in the interview below.

Q: Can you start by telling us a little bit about what you’re doing right now, and how you got there?

A: I currently work as a management consultant for a global consulting firm and am based in Chicago. I completed my undergraduate studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, located 10 miles or so north of downtown Chicago, double-majoring in economics and applied mathematics in the social sciences and graduating in 2015. Before college, I attended high school in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and during this time, my mother worked at Corvias in Fort Polk. I was an employee scholar from my high school class of 2011 scholarship recipients, and I remain incredibly grateful and humbled to be a part of such a wonderful family.

Q: How did you first know you wanted to work in business?

A: In high school, I did not have the opportunity to explore much in the social sciences (e.g., economics, psychology, sociology) given my school’s curriculum and course offerings. These disciplines form much of the foundation of business as we know it. I had always been intrigued by how companies are run and how some enterprises are able to be profitable while others are not. I took the initiative and enrolled in economics courses at my local college and found the concepts intuitive and interesting. After declaring as an economics major in college, I was surrounded by classmates who had interests and career ambitions in the business world. I became friends with many of them, and in addition to the wonderful colleagues I have today, they play significant roles in keeping me passionate and motivated in what I do every day.

Q: What is management consulting? (For those of us without the business know-how)

A: The management consulting industry exists because companies face enormous challenges every day and need outside expertise to successfully navigate those challenges. Businesses will hire consulting firms to advise them on how to overcome difficulties in a number of areas – supply chain inefficiencies, lack of employee engagement, decline in customer volumes, and so on. When we begin projects for our clients, we quickly develop an understanding of how their businesses are run, investigate the drivers of their problems, and pinpoint ways of improvement. That’s what management consultants do in a nutshell – we solve problems for our clients.

Q: What drew you to management consulting specifically?

A: When anyone asks me this question, whether it’s my clients, non-consulting friends, or students interested in consulting, I always say it’s the people, and I mean that 100%. Consultants work hard – we put in well above the standard 40 hours in a given week because the challenges that our clients bring to us require that much time and effort to solve on our part. As daunting as that sounds, a consultant is never alone. We work in teams to solve problems, and these teams are all comprised of incredibly intelligent, creative, dedicated, and fun individuals. I am constantly amazed and motivated by my colleagues in what we are able to do collectively, and it is just rewarding to be part of that type of environment at work.

Q: What is the life of a consultant like?

A: If I could use three adjectives to describe my life as a consultant, I would use stimulating, rewarding, and fun. It is stimulating because while no project is easy, I am able to develop significant amounts of industry and company specific knowledge critical to my future growth and development. It is rewarding because I believe that I am impacting the way businesses are run with my work every day, and that has very tangible impacts on the world around me. And it is fun because I end up developing so many meaningful relationships with my colleagues and clients through our work together – and in between the long hours we put in, we do get to enjoy each other’s company outside the office, whether it’s team dinners at fancy restaurants, go-karting to blow off steam, or weekend trips to exotic destinations.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

A: The relationships I have been able to build. I genuinely believe that the people I have encountered in my career – colleagues, clients, students – are good people. While I have certainly not maintained connections with every individual I have met, I am very proud to have developed a network that believes in me and supports me. I feel like I can rely on them for advice, for comfort, and for simple companionship – and it is a wonderful feeling to know that I have a team behind me.

Q: Where do you ultimately hope your career will take you?

A: Having focused more recently on advising companies in the transportation and services space – and in aviation in particular – I can envision myself working for an airline directly in the future. The specific parameters are still relatively opaque at this point, but as I mature into a leader, I would be excited about taking on challenges associated with leading an airline in meeting its lofty goals.

Q: How have your military brat experiences prepared you to work in business?

A: I am different from most of my Corvias peers as I was an employee scholar. However, I have experienced relatable changes in my life compared to those growing up as a “military brat.” I, too, moved growing up – first, from China to the United States in Rhode Island; then from Rhode Island to Louisiana; and then from Louisiana to Chicagoland. It’s funny because I inherently do not like change, but my life experiences have forced me into situations in which change is necessary. That has broad applicability to my life as a consultant – I travel for work as I need to be wherever my clients are – so I have had to adapt to different company cultures, different cities, and different teams. I think the ability to comfortably handle change is important to being successful, and I am sure my fellow Corvias scholars have a huge advantage compared to most people in that area.

Q: What advice would you give to members of the Corvias family who are considering careers in business?

A: Two things – one, prepare yourself to the best of your ability and two, try not to stress. On the first point, if you have an interest in business, start thinking of ways you can set yourself up for success. That could mean taking relevant courses in school, researching industries and companies that appeal to you, working on polishing up your resumes, practicing interviews with your friends and mentors, and reaching out to people who can help you along the way. As long as you feel that you gave your best effort in trying to reach your goals, you have nothing to worry about. There are many roads to working in business so take comfort in the fact that there is no single path to success. On the second point – and this is something that I deal pretty terribly with – realize what you can control and what you cannot and force yourself to let go of the things that are beyond your reach. You’ll be much more relaxed and happier with such a mindset, and I think most people will benefit from that type of thinking in the long-run.

Q: Are there any other messages you’d like to share with the rest of the Corvias community?

A: I wish you success in all your respective pursuits. To anyone interested in exploring opportunities in business and would like to connect, please feel free to reach out on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/garyzhu92) or Corvias Connect.

Grit and Gratitude

20181013_112133Last September, the Corvias Alumni Network gathered in Raleigh, NC.  In addition to our regularly scheduled networking and think-tanking, we were treated to a delightfully honest presentation called “Gettin’ Gritty with Goal Setting,” by Dr. Jermaine Davis.  

With a wide grin and a whirlwind of good vibes, Dr. Davis introduced us to his trademark style of ‘edutainment.’  He asked us what it felt like when we accomplished goals, and he taught us the “good job rap” (Good Job, Good Job.  Good Job, Good Job. G – double O – D- J – O – B. Good Job, Good Job). Grit, tenacity, explained Dr. Davis, the ability to work through adversity, that is what helps us reach success, not natural born talent or perfectionism or reinventing the wheel.  He pointed out that the line between success and everything else is really fine, photofinish type fine, and that we don’t need to barrel across the line to success, we only need to cross it by a hair.

What I appreciated most about Dr. Davis is that he didn’t tell us to go work our fingers raw, hoping and praying to be noticed and promoted.  Instead he gave us real tools, tangible and realistic examples of what we can do to get gritty so we can find success. He began by asking us what was on our plate each week.  Each person, he said, no matter who you are or where you from, only has 168 hours in a week. We spend those hours doing things we must and doing things we want. Between sleep, work, and all of our other basic obligations, there’s not a lot of hours left over to do the things that we love.  Dr. Davis asked us to think about that: does the way that you spend your weekly hours match up with your core values? Are your priorities in order? Are you neglecting something you ought not to?

We talked about emotion management.  Emotions happen, they just do (see: Inside Out), and depending on how you approach those emotions they can be helpful (facilitative) or less helpful (debilitative).  Facilitative emotions help propel you, they push you into new things. Debilitative emotions get us stuck, often in our own heads, unable to make decisive action out of fear or shame.  Jealousy of a colleague’s work can be used to invigorate your own work, or it can make you bitter and resentful. Bad emotions are not always debilitative, often they are just a response to negative stimuli.  Debilitative emotions are notable for their intensity (bitterness) and duration (bitterness over a long period of time). If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of debilitative emotions, Dr. Davis suggests gratitude practices.  Gratitude, he says, is the antidote to negative thoughts. While we often try to bury bad thoughts in positive thoughts, what we ought to do is focus on the things that we already have that we are grateful for.

At times in our lives, each of us will experience debilitative emotions.  The grittiest of us know how to identify those negative reactions and use that energy instead of succumbing to it.  It takes practice to know how to do this, the kind of practice that only comes with having failed enough times to learn to be gritty.  Paradoxically, failure is the only way to succeed. When we fail, it’s hard not to take it personally, especially when we’ve tried with everything we’ve got.   Even though rationally, we often know that circumstances are out of our hands, judges have their own interests, everything is politics, companies hire based on the dollar not on the best qualifications — even though we know that a setback isn’t our own creation, we can still feel like giving up, especially when we get in our own heads.  

But gratitude brings us back down.  It takes us out of our anxious headspace and back into the present moment, whatever that is.  Usually, the present moment isn’t the worst case scenario we’ve imagined. Gratitude helps remind us of the job that still pays, the friends and family that still love us in their own imperfect ways, of good health and of new opportunities — gratitude reminds us of the simple things that make our foundation.  A healthy social network, stressed Dr. Davis, is vital for both gratitude practice and recovering after a setback. Friends and family help us back up — nobody got where they are alone, don’t try to be the first.

There are four types of people, Dr. Davis, explained: Adders, Subtractors, Multipliers, and Dividers.  The Adders are your friends and peers, people who push you forward. The Subtractors are your bullies and adversaries, the people who push you backward.  Multipliers are your mentors, they push you way up. And the Dividers rip your life apart, tear you to pieces, break your heart. Most of us, those of us in school especially, struggle with Subtractors.  They’re everywhere and until you’re really comfortable asserting yourself, their influence can add up quickly. Lord help you if you know you have a Divider in your life; some people, you’ve got to love from a safe distance, but you never stop loving.  For me, I realized I was short on Multipliers and my life felt, subsequently, stagnant. Had I skipped this discussion, who knows how long it would have taken me to identify this easily addressed problem.

It was a pleasure to meet Dr. Davis.  I hardly encapsulated his speech and I definitely lack his eloquence.  I find that wisdom is not something new that I’ve learned, but something old that’s been put in its place.  That’s what “Gettin’ Gritty” felt like: lots of things I already knew being arranged in a way that made sense.  Perhaps you need that in your life; I encourage you to come to the next of these annual summits. If any of these points resonated with you, please leave a comment and let’s talk.