This time of year it’s not unusual to stand in line at campus coffee shops with cap-and-gown-clad students. Commencement exercises for graduates of the various schools and colleges at the U begin in late April and continue through mid-May, which means campus is crowded with friends and families for a couple of weeks or more. It’s a joyful time—you can feel it in the air—and a happy reminder that student success is at the core of the University’s mission. It’s also core to the Alumni Association’s mission.
While waiting for my morning joe a couple of weeks ago next to three young men in mortarboards, I realized I felt inordinately proud, as though I had something to do with their achievement. The fact is, we do a lot here at the Alumni Association to support student success. Last year we added a staff position dedicated to that important part of our mission. Our Director of Student and Recent Alumni Relations Ambreasha Frazier (B.S. ’10, M.P.P. ’12), who started her job six months ago, leads programming that connects students and graduates of the last decade with the resources of the Alumni Association—not the least of which are alumni, our most valuable human resource.
It’s fitting that the Alumni Association play a vital role in the transition from student to alumna or alumnus. At the heart of that transition—which begins years before graduation day—is making sure students know they’re part of a global community of nearly half a million. And, as is true of any community, the contributions of the individual matter to the well-being of the whole. Mentoring is one way to live out the life of this community—the Alumni Association helps support the colleges’ robust mentoring programs that pair students with established professionals. Last year, 1,400 mentor-mentee relationships flourished. (See page 47 to learn more about taking the next step toward becoming a mentor.)
In addition to mentoring, programming such as our Emerging Professionals Network brings together recent alumni who are embarking on or in the early stages of a career. We also provide multiple supports for career exploration and professional development, including webinars and panel discussions that call on successful, established alumni to share their experience. Technology opens up the possibility of connection among people who are geographically distant, and we have a vigorous virtual community that is engaged not just with the Alumni Association, but with each other.
Simply put, students and alumni enrich each other’s lives. It’s a two-way relationship—just ask anyone who has mentored a student, shared their story with a student, or helped instill confidence in them as they entered a new phase of life. I’d love to hear your story about how you’ve impacted a student’s life and vice-versa—and keep in mind that as a member of the Alumni Association, you can take pride in knowing that you play a part in this vital piece of our mission. It wouldn’t even be that far-fetched for you to feel proud standing next to a graduate at the coffee shop.