The UConn Alumni Association has started a program to reach out to graduates who live overseas, hoping to reconnect them to the University and seek their assistance in welcoming study abroad students and visiting faculty to their countries of residence.
The Association’s executive director, Lisa Lewis, and Debra Crary, manager of membership and international alumni relations, have begun an effort to identify what could be thousands of alumni living overseas.
They hope to persuade some of them in as many countries as possible to become Husky ambassadors, who will help faculty, staff, and current students who travel there.
“It was clear when I arrived here that there was a desire for our undergraduate and graduate students to become global citizens, to provide them with a more international focus,” Lewis says.
“We thought that we should support that effort, and there was a sense that we could contribute and, at the same time, help our alumni reconnect to the University.”
The idea of creating a UConn presence abroad has percolated for several years, says Crary, but the program really starting taking off after Lewis became executive director of the Association just over a year ago.
“As UConn becomes more international in its reach, with not only our alumni but faculty and students crossing the globe,” she says, “we want to make sure there’s somebody there for them. A smiling face, a ready handshake, a colleague who can help them learn about a new country.”
Gregory Waddell was one of the first alumni to respond to the call from Storrs for overseas graduates to help the Alumni Association internationalize its efforts.
A 2002 UConn graduate now living in London, Waddell says, “I’ll always value my experiences at UConn and feel incredibly fortunate to have studied at one of America’s classic universities.”
Waddell is involved in international marketing management and corporate social responsibility for the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.
“As an ambassador in London,” he says, “I hope to convey to UConn students the importance of appreciating a broader international business community and the potential of emerging markets, in addition to galvanizing the strong network of alumni living in the UK.”
Lewis and Crary have also received enthusiastic responses from alumni in Argentina, France, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and Dubai.
Staff from the Office of Multicultural and International Affairs, the Department of International Services and Programs, and the Study Abroad program have pitched in, too, as have a number of deans and department heads who responded to an e-mail by contributing the names and contact information for alumni they know.
“Our biggest challenge is trying to find our alumni,” says Lewis.
“We don’t have as many of the tools to find them overseas as we do here, so much of our knowledge is anecdotal. As we do find them, though, we ask them who they know, and start to build that list. And when we do talk to somebody, we’re finding that many of them want to do more.”
| Lisa Lewis, executive director of the UConn Alumni Association. The Association is seeking to reconnect alumni living overseas with the University.
|File Photo by Peter Morenus
Count Dr. Paul Zakowich among them. Zakowich, a 1974 biology graduate who opened an internal medicine practice in Singapore in 1983, has not only agreed to be an ambassador but, several years ago, started an alumni chapter there. And he wants to do more.
“In addition to encouraging fellowship with alumni in the region, I would be pleased to talk to students here who may consider applying to UConn,” he says.
“Every year, there is a career day at Singapore American School that is attended by many public and private colleges. I strongly believe this would be a worthwhile venture for UConn.”
Chawki Madaoui, a 2003 MBA working with Mazars & Guerard in France, has the same idea.
He has offered to set up a table and attend fairs in the region to meet potential applicants.
Elliot Shubert, who earned a doctorate in biology in 1973 and now works as a research scientist in the botany department at the Natural History Museum in London, is also keen to help.
“I received an excellent education at UConn, which has carried me very well into my professional life,” he says.
“I had caring professors who maintained high standards of teaching and learning, and I had the support of the University with a pre-doctoral fellowship. I would be happy to give something back.”
Several of the schools and colleges are also helping. The School of Engineering has partnered with the Association to sponsor an alumni reception in Cairo on March 18, and the School of Business is helping with a reception in Taiwan on July 18.
Receptions also are planned for London on May 17 and Rome on Sept. 20, and similar events have already been held in Paris, London, Athens, and Rhodes, often in conjunction with the Association’s international travel program.
Besides helping identify alumni, Lewis and Crary also are hoping that faculty traveling overseas will sometimes contact alumni living in the countries they visit.
“If they’re willing to have breakfast, coffee, or even make a phone call, just to say hello and keep that person engaged, it would help build the program,” says Lewis.
“They can be the arms and legs of our program, helping us reach alumni.”