Go to content

Strength in numbers: why societies are not just for students

From networking to making change, alumni groups and societies can unlock myriad opportunities for progression.

- 3 minute read

Think clubs and societies are just for undergraduates? Think again. Whether you joined everything (or, ahem, nothing) it’s not too late: many of the University’s clubs and societies have an alumni branch – and many alumni have set up groups where you can meet like-minded people and access a friendly, global network.

Nnenda Chinda (Downing 2013) has taken the second route. She founded the Cambridge Black Alumni Network (CBAN), following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and is currently co-chair with Amatey Doku (Jesus 2013). “I had been thinking about doing something like this for several years but in 2020, I felt that it was now or never,” she says. “Previously, there hadn’t been any alumni groups to bring together black people who attended Cambridge, enabling us to form lifelong relationships after studying here.” The group already has 185 members, with matriculation years ranging from 1965 to 2015, and is supported by a delivery team of eight alumni and an advisory group of 15 alumni. Members are spread across the world and their careers span every sector, from the arts to medicine.

Alumni in library
Co-founders of the Cambridge Black Alumni Network Amatey Doku (Jesus 2013)
and Nnenda Chinda (Downing 2013) in the North Library of the Oxford and Cambridge Club.

So far, CBAN has held five events online, including a session on how the pandemic has affected different industries, a discussion of the impact of George Floyd’s murder one year on, and a graduation celebration. In December 2021, the Network held its first in-person event – a very well-attended Christmas dinner. “The Network is giving us incredible opportunities – to help each other, to enable students to see themselves represented in so many industries, and to make a difference,” says Chinda.

The network is giving us incredible opportunities, to help each other, see ourselves represented across industries and to make a difference

Or perhaps you’re interested in a specific sector? The Wilberforce Society is the UK’s oldest student thinktank, offering students the chance to publish their work on policy. It also runs regular events such as the annual conference, which last year featured a memorable Zoom debate between a founder of Extinction Rebellion, Gail Bradbrook, and Sir Mark Moody-Stuart (St John’s 1960), former chairman of Shell.

“We’d love to hear from alumni who were members of the Society as students, but also Cambridge grads who now work in public policy,” says current chair, third year George Stokes (Corpus). “We welcome anyone who can get involved with career and networking opportunities for our members, or who is interested in our work. We were only founded in 2009 – so if this is your area and you didn’t have the chance to join while you were at Cambridge, get in touch.”

More from Cambridge