Graduates go global


    A fitting aphorism for young idealists/entrepreneurs would be to make waves instead of ride them. Apropos of this, some Pepperdine Waves have put their crests to work and pumped out some serious swells.

    Young Professionals Global Network (YPGN), a nonprofit organization, seeks to build a network of bridges between current Pepperdine students and fellow alumni to bring forth real world experience and first-hand accounts, all the while acting as a pseudo middleman for deal makers and eager entrepreneurs. What began as a club in 1998 has since turned into a new way of utilizing one’s higher education long after commencement.

    The formula is simple: make connections between the novice and the wise mentor, link the naive with the sophisticate, and place bench sitter with the starting player. Whether it is to seek some understanding about a field of interest, a business venture, or simply to get a job, YPGN provides the channels.

    Romanian-born Mike Costache, founder and chairman of YPGN, wondered why the majority of fellowship during the college years could not be somehow prolonged.

    “Pepperdine’s greatest asset is their people,” Costache submits.

    Before YPGN found its niche, Pepperdine’s Alumni Network efficiently served (as it does today) as a booster and a fellow hand of the university. However, there were gaps

    in maintaining communication. Pepperdine has since updated its infrastructure substantially with its Web database. Members of the Import/Export Club (YPGN’s former name) brainstormed and found they were small in number but grand in potential.

    Costache soon realized the obvious. “There are five programs at Pepperdine and the students and alumni never communicated nor intermingled.”

    Now you can simply log-on to YPGN’s Web site, and if you are or have been a Pepperdine student, you’re in. Members can network through the site’s e-mail functions, use the letterhead and resume building kits that Costache and company have provided, and read up on what fellow alumni are up to.

    Costache says, “A lot of people think there is a commitment, but there isn’t. And there are no fees either.” (The Web site states that fees are not currently charged and that YPGN is funded by grant money from a number of original founding members.)

    YPGN boasts more than 300 members from more than 40 countries thus far. As Kapil Juneja, vice chairman of YPGN, injects, “These people have successfully linked together for business purposes.”

    The potential? There are more than 65,000 alumni from the five different schools at Pepperdine. And as Costache specifies, “The majority live in Southern California.”

    Juneja is like many international students in the organization. Since Juneja’s leave from Ludhiana, in the state of Punjab, India, he has profited immensely. Being thrown in the mix with a new prosperous Malibu world, strange colloquial slang and subject matter, and having to adjust almost instantly was not going to be easy.

    Costache met Juneja and together they sought to include others who felt their international isolation by creating a circle of camaraderie.

    The two managed to bypass the current system of networking and constructed one of their own.

    Juneja says, “We had to start somewhere. When you talk to other Pepperdine students, they respect you. They give you preferential treatment.”

    Within a short time, Juneja’s family textile business soon found a market in the U.S. and then beyond.

    YPGN’s master plan is Leadership, Friendship, Mentorship.

    One mentor is Chris Santo, YPGN’s University Alumni Advisory Board member, who graduated both from Seaver College in 1988 and later from Graziadio School of Business Management in 1998. He currently serves as business director for FortuneLab, a $5 million angel venture fund, and has been a member of YPGN for more than a year. As far as the benefits, Santo feels nothing but reward.

    “I have received a number of chances to review deal flows for potential investment from YPGN members,” says Santo. “You need both trust between fellow alums and shared experiences to make it work.”

    Pepperdine has taken notice. Not only has YPGN’s achievements demanded the attention of how Pepperdine can interact with its graduates, but proves that there is a vital need being filled.

    Keith Whitney, chairman of the business division for Seaver College, respects the bold moves by YPGN and works first-hand with the members as he is the faculty advisor for SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) in which many of the YPGN members are equally supportive.

    He commends YPGN’s success stating, “We’re all very supportive. YPGN is comprised primarily of Pepperdine graduates who are helping one another.”

    It is quite rare for a student-led organization to independently run without seeking funds from the


    “We see their work as particularly healthy,” says Whitney. “Not only are they not asking Pepperdine for money, but we think they are offering a high quality of service by helping others understand the benefits and developing as individuals in the world.”

    Whitney made mention of the legality behind Pepperdine protecting its name and its image. “We cannot have our alumni going out and printing representation of the university. In this sense, it is easier to get forgiveness than permission.”

    Hence, YPGN will remain an independent nonprofit organization that subtly contributes and Pepperdine will have its back.

    Says Whitney, “We are understanding what they can do and are giving credit for what they have done.”