By Cynthia Scott
Members if the Black Alumni Network tailgate during Homecoming.
Black alumni gathered on campus during Homecoming weekend in September for the launch of the new University of Minnesota Black Alumni Network (UMN BAN). Co-organizer Emilia Ndely (B.A. ’11), who lives in Atlanta, was one of many who traveled from a distance for the inaugural get-together. “I didn’t expect it, honestly. I thought it would be mostly local people,” she says.
Ndely and Wil Zehourou (B.S. ’08, M.B.A. ’15), former president of the U’s Black Student Union and African Student Association who now lives in Denver, organized UMN BAN after discovering through conversations and via social media a deep hunger to connect among black alumni. Ndely says she first became intrigued by the possibility of a black alumni network at the U while she was in graduate school at the University of North Carolina, which has significant alumni engagement from the black community. Additionally, she noticed that a friend and fellow student was closely connected to her alma mater, Clemson University, through its Black Alumni Council.
“I imagined how powerful a similar network would be at the U, especially given that many black alumni leave Minnesota to branch out professionally. Why not leverage this dispersion, and the unique personal and professional experiences that come with it?” Ndely says.
The choice to use the word black is significant, says Ndely. “I’m of African descent. I was born and raised in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, but my parents emigrated here. We didn’t want to exclude anybody by calling ourselves African Americans—we want to be welcoming to everyone. If you agree with our purpose and objectives you are welcome to join us. And you don’t have to be black or live in Minnesota.” Ndely contacted Zehourou via Facebook after he began gauging interest in a black alumni group as a graduate student at the Carlson School. Both agree that social media will continue to play a vital role in the network. “I want the opportunity to connect, to be there for alumni all over, but especially in big cities,” says Ndely. “I want black alumni to be able to leverage each other and be an outlet for undergraduate students so they feel connected to other alumni as they prepare to enter professions.”
To connect with UMN BAN, email UMNBlackAlumni@gmail.com or find it on Facebook.
Photo: Courtesy Emilia Ndely