Caryn Groce, UNIS alumna ('90), current Board of Trustee member, and Senior Vice President, General Counsel at Viacom International Media Networks, has thought long and hard about how best to connect with her roughly 8,000 former classmates and peers. Since joining the UNIS Board of Trustees earlier this year, she's partnered with two other members, Sonny Ago ('87) and Maria-Luisa Chavez ('71), to put some of her ideas into motion, by helping to spearhead a quest for a dynamic and inclusive alumni network."Our alumni are great at keeping in touch with one another—we had this amazing experience while in school and have created strong bonds with each other over that. Now, we need to work on creating that same bond with the school itself."
The three have created a new Subcommittee on Alumni Affairs, with a focus on reconnecting former UNIS students with the institution that helped shape them. "We really want to hit the ground running," says Ago, Assistant Vice President for Student Life at Manhattan College. "We want the alumni to be a part of a formal community and have shared governance in the advancement of the school."
To that end, all three are reaching out to their peers and former classmates, informing the community of their existence, as well as implementing what Ago is calling a "listening tour," complete with meet ups and informal reunions and gatherings around the world, in order to generate ideas on what an alumni network could be. "The role of the Subcommittee is not only to inform people of the latest happenings at UNIS, but also ensure that they have a voice in the future of the institution," he says. Groce agrees, saying, "It's time for us to reweave the fabric of the alumni voice."
The goals of the newly-formed and ambitious group are threefold:
- 1.Steward a life-long relationship between alumni and UNIS
- 2.Serve as a conduit between alumni, trustees, and the UNIS administration
- 3.Implement programs and events to engage alumni in a co-curricular process
"I'm hoping that as an alumna on the Board of Trustees, I can reinvigorate the relationship between the school and its former students," says Chavez, who, in addition to being an alumna, was also a Modern Language instructor, then facilitator for the annual Human Rights Conference between the UN and UNIS students, and now, a trustee, has "seen everything from a different perspective."
Another focus for Chavez is connecting former students with their teachers. "The faculty is a pillar of the school," says the former UN Chief of Nongovernmental Organizations Relations. "They are what make UNIS such a unique school. It's atypical, and I can't stress that enough." And as much as the Subcommittee is about reengaging UNIS alums, another priority is opening up opportunities for current students. "Our hope is to foster a dialogue between alumni on ways to give back to the school, whether that be through talks or workshops with students," says Groce. "Volunteerism and community building is such a large part of the UNIS experience—a special ethos. We need to find a way for former students to reconnect to the mission and vision of the school."
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