The Columns

Alumni Chapters Keep University Connections Strong

— by on June 7th, 2016

Washington and Lee’s Alumni Association works tirelessly to keep far-flung members of the university community informed and connected once they leave campus. While the association provides significant programs and communications for alumni, parents, students and friends, it is only through its vibrant and extensive chapter program that this community can be fully involved and play an active role in university life throughout the United States and abroad.

In a program that is admired by many of its peers, W&L has 80 alumni chapters in the United States and one in the United Kingdom. All of the chapters are volunteer-driven with assistance from the Alumni Office, led by volunteers who serve as president and vice president, most for three-year terms. Many chapters also have a treasurer, social chair, communications/social media chair and other positions that allow for a variety of alumni volunteer opportunities.

The chapter program has an element of outreach through the Alumni Admissions Program, helping to identify and connect interested high school students with the university. Chapters also provide a social function, creating opportunities for alumni, parents and friends to connect at a variety of events, such as summer send-off parties for incoming first-year students, President’s Day celebrations, service projects and admissions, affinity and career-networking events.

Alumni chapters across the country vary greatly in size, ranging from 25 to more than 2,500 members. Several of the larger chapters – the District of Columbia, New York City, Philadelphia, Dallas and Atlanta – host Fancy Dress events, bringing local W&L communities together to celebrate their own versions of the Fancy Dress tradition enjoyed on campus.

Chapters of all sizes host events that bring university faculty, staff and students to their locations for lectures, cultural events and receptions. These visits provide an opportunity to build even stronger ties between chapter members and the campus community.

Keeping the university’s ever-expanding network connected continues to be the primary function of the alumni chapter program. Chapter presidents work with the Alumni Office to continuously grow their chapter memberships, particularly encouraging interaction with recent graduates who may just be settling into new cities.

The Alumni Office encourages new graduates to keep their contact information up to date to ensure they receive chapter information and invitations and to get involved with their local chapters as a means to maintain close ties to the university.

Chapter Presidents In Their Own Words

Nelson Bunn ’08, District of Columbia Chapter

On serving as chapter president:

“Serving as president allows me to continue to give back to Washington and Lee, just from another perspective. I essentially serve as a liaison between the school and the alumni community in the D.C. area to create a two-way street of communication for information dissemination, but also to help continue to foster the sense of one family of Generals.”

On the benefits of chapter involvement:

“Every week I get emails from someone introducing him or herself as a fellow General, asking what events we may have coming up, and often times how he or she can get involved with the chapter. It broadens my own network, but also allows me to introduce that person to someone else who might benefit from the connection. In a way, it’s a local form of the speaking tradition.”

On what the chapter does to encourage participation:

“We try to involve as many people in the process as we can for setting up chapter events and broadening our reach to the local alumni. We hold networking events for recent graduates, we do quarterly happy hours after work so folks can mingle, and we’ve made a concerted effort in the last year to increase our outreach to multicultural alumni and first-time attendees.”

Advice for recent graduates:

“First, change your contact information in Colonnade Connections. Often I get emails from individuals saying they aren’t receiving information about the chapter, and the reason has been he or she hasn’t updated the website. Second, contact the local chapter president and ask about upcoming events and offer that if any help is ever needed, to count you in. All of the chapters run such diverse programming that there is always a way for someone to get involved. Third, simply attend events. The more you attend, the more you will meet people, including local chapter boards. A conversation could arise that lends itself to a way to get involved. You never know unless you ask.”

Charlie Yates ’06, Atlanta Chapter

On serving as chapter president:

“I absolutely love Washington and Lee and really enjoy my fellow alumni in the Atlanta chapter. I joined the chapter board when I returned from law school and wanted to give back any way I could. When my predecessor asked me to be president of the chapter I did not hesitate to accept!”

On the benefits of chapter involvement:

“It’s really great to get to interact with my colleagues on the chapter board. They are very active in the chapter and the alumni association and are passionate about the school. I also really enjoy the opportunity to see other alumni at chapter events.

On what the chapter does to encourage participation:

We hold chapter events that we think will appeal to a broad and diverse cross-section of alumni. We hold large and small events all over Atlanta, and we hope that every member of the alumni chapter will be interested in at least one (or even better, several) of our programs.

Advice for recent graduates:

Come to chapter events. Members of chapter leadership are at every event, and if you want to get engaged with the chapter, talk to them. Chapters are always looking for good and committed volunteers!

John Allgood ’07, Nashville Chapter

On the benefits of chapter involvement:

“As a relatively new Nashvillian, the Alumni Chapter has been an excellent opportunity for me to meet new people and form new friendships.”

On what the chapter does to encourage participation:

“I think our chapter board does a great job of planning a variety of chapter event types (i.e. baseball games, ballet, happy hour, career networking, etc.), which draws the best overall participation.”

Advice for recent graduates:

“If you attend a variety of events, you will meet a variety of alumni. The chapter benefits from the energy and fun that young alumni bring, and many young alumni benefit from joining the W&L community in their new home away from Lexington.”