What inspires alumni to return to their Oregon State community long after earning their degree? In short: each other.
For many grads, cultural and community bonds carried them through the pressures of college life. To rekindle such connections, the OSU Alumni Association is supporting four new affinity-based networks formed and led by alumni.
Along with the Black Alumni and Friends Network established in 2018, the new groups are Asian and Pacific Islander Alumni Network, the Klatowa Eena Alumni Network, Chicana/o Latina/o and LGBTQIA+ alumni communities.
Where there’s a need, there’s a way
Ellen Dishman and fellow activists helped establish the campus Pride Center in 2001. Never one to wait on the sidelines, she now serves on the leadership team for the LGBTQIA+ alumni network.
“We go back because of the people who were important to us and the networks that we built,” she says. “This is a way to continue that community and build it in a more transgenerational way.”
Each network will develop unique objectives, initiatives and events, but all have the core mission to create a welcoming space that connects alumni with each other and with Oregon State.
This year, the more established Black Alumni and Friends Network is setting an example of outreach for the newer networks.
BAFN member Temmecha Turner, ’04, plans to reach out to potential students as early as middle school. She intends to answer common questions such as “What does it take to go to college? How can I sustain my cultural identity at a predominantly white institution? How do I become market valuable after I attain my degree?"
Building an OSU that makes Beavers proud(er)
While the university is committed to the hard work of change, underserved students have at times felt uncomfortable and neglected during their years at Oregon State. Peer-to-peer alumni groups give those Beavers another chance to connect.
“Healing is a big part of what we're going to be doing this year,” says BAFN member Jonathan Riley, ’09. “It’s about alumni being able to share a comfortable and mature space that allows them to grow, so that when they see that Beaver logo or colors, it’s something they feel proud of.”
Amid the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and a constricted job market, these alumni groups create a richer community of emotional support, and also provide valuable opportunities for networking, mentorship and professional development.
“It just gives us more reason to lock arms tighter and say, ‘how can we support each other?’ even though we're hundreds of miles away,” Riley says.