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Football Program Story: Monogram Career Network

Sep 8, 2014, 8:54 AM EDT

Football student-athletes had the opportunity to network with Monogram winners at the Club's football alumni dinner reception during the 2014 Blue-Gold weekend last April. Pictured are current Notre Dame student-athletes Romeo Okwara (left) and Jarrett Grace (right), along with Monogram Club board member Chinedum Ndukwe ('07, football) (Photo by Lighthouse Imaging).

The following feature on the Monogram Career Network was written by Joanne Norell, and first appeared in the football program for the Notre Dame vs. Michigan game on Sept. 6, 2014.

The Notre Dame Monogram Club long has served as an irreplaceable resource for current and former Monogram winners. It provides a network for those who have ever donned a Fighting Irish uniform to connect, offer support, and share experiences. Now, the Club is offering another resource to support its newest family members as they begin their careers, with the launch of the Monogram Career Network.

Since its inception as a pilot program at the beginning of 2014, the Monogram Club’s newest initiative has grown faster than expected. The brainchild of Monogram Club board members Will McCarthy (’95 & ’99, swimming) and Byron Spruell (’87 & ’89, football), the Monogram Career Network works to connect Notre Dame student-athletes with alums who can help target potential internship and full-time employment opportunities that accommodate their athletic requirements.

The idea transpired for McCarthy, vice president of originations at General Electric Capital’s Bank Loan Group, after he joined the Monogram Club board of directors in April 2013 and began receiving individual contacts from student-athletes looking for employment. Realizing most contact between student-athletes and Monogram alumni was inefficient, McCarthy and Spruell discussed ways to formalize the process while helping the student-athletes find opportunities that suit their experiences.

“Notre Dame is a pipeline of talent and we wanted the benefit of having student-athletes,” said Spruell, vice chairman at Deloitte LLP, a top employer of Notre Dame graduates. “We said, ‘Why don’t we put together a network where we understand the brand of student-athletes at Notre Dame and the gaps you see in their resume?’”

Spruell, a four-time football Monogram winner from 1984-87, counts himself lucky to have had a comparable experience while at Notre Dame before the Monogram Career Network’s creation. Spruell had the opportunity to intern for a few weeks over a couple summers at Procter & Gamble in between summer school and workouts, an opportunity that was offered to him by team manager Mike Harvey (’85).

Internship experiences have become increasingly important to landing post-graduation employment. However, many student-athletes find themselves falling behind their peers who don’t have athletic obligations.

By connecting with former Notre Dame student-athletes who understand these constraints, the Monogram Club has been able to facilitate interviews for current student-athletes as well as assist with the creation of personalized and short-term internships that fit into the breaks many of them have, thus helping them get a foot in the door.

A marker of the Monogram Career Network’s success has been the positive feedback from the participating employers who have lauded the quality of the candidates they have met. Several of those student-athletes have been asked back for another internship or have been offered full-time positions following graduation.

“We assisted one athlete in locating an internship opportunity in North Carolina where a mini internship opportunity was created for him,” McCarthy says. “The feedback we got was, ‘We would welcome him back and any other kids you’d send through an MCN connection.’ They had such a positive experience. It’s that kind of connection and momentum that’s a win for the company and a win for the student-athlete.”

Having a formalized approach to matching Fighting Irish student-athletes with career resources has been a “win-win-win-win,” according to McCarthy. Not only does it help student-athletes fill in resume gaps and employers find top-flight talent, but the Monogram Career Network has also been a boon for University exposure and has helped the athletic department demonstrate its commitment to developing well-rounded individuals.

With McCarthy and Spruell both based in Chicago, the Monogram Career Network pilot program began in the spring of 2013 with its focus primarily in the Midwest and approximately 30 candidates representing a wide variety of varsity sports. Of those candidates, between 20-25 interviewed for jobs or internships and 15 accepted an offer. According to McCarthy, the remaining participants entered the professional ranks, pursued other unrelated opportunities or planned on attending graduate school.

Currently, 152 students have expressed interest in the program with the intention of engaging with the Monogram Career Network and its roughly 75 Monogram alumni participants during the 2014-15 school year, according to Stephanie Felicetti, Student-Athlete Careers Program Director at the Notre Dame Career Center.

“I think the Monogram Career Network has really good possibilities for student-athletes and there are huge benefits to tapping into it now,” Spruell says. “Hopefully the student-athlete who has this experience can share it with others they meet on campus and help the program so that more individuals will become involved. For Monogram members, there’s a benefit to our organization to have top student-athletes who understand how to work under pressure; it’s great to have those kind of folks on your team.”

To get involved with the Monogram Career Network, email or follow the network on Twitter @NDMCNetwork.

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