University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Start me up

Alumni Association’s new Affinity Programs fast off the launching pad

Ayla Walker ‘11, Mike Fallman ‘82, Anu Yadav ‘96, Tucker Lyman ‘09, Dan Sleeper ‘09,  President Tom Sullivan, Andrew Kirshen ‘09, Scott Bailey ‘09, and Graham Allison ‘06.
From left to right: Ayla Walker ‘11, Mike Fallman ‘82, Anu Yadav ‘96, Tucker Lyman ‘09, Dan Sleeper ‘09, President Tom Sullivan, Andrew Kirshen ‘09, Scott Bailey ‘09, and Graham Allison ‘06.

ALUMNI CONNECTION

Start me up

Alumni Association’s new Affinity Programs fast off the launching pad

Only a year ago, it was a promising new idea, but really, only that. At their winter meeting in Stowe, the UVM Alumni Association Board of Directors heard a report from its Affinity Committee on an intriguing Affinity Program—a grassroots, volunteer-driven program designed to provide opportunities for alumni of shared interests and common bonds to connect on meaningful levels beyond the traditional class or regional programs most alums have become familiar with over the years.

Essentially a start-up operation, the Affinity Program officially launched last July with communications to alumni and campus constituencies about the program and a dedicated Web page on the Alumni Association website. Affinity groups have quickly sprung up­­—focused on entrepreneurship (UVME) in Boston, a Greater China Group in Shanghai, The Green Cats focused on environmental interests, the Outing Club, and an ALANA group  called Alumni of Color.
The driving force behind the Affinity Program concept has been Anuradha (Anu) Yadav ’96, chair of the UVM Alumni Association Affinity Committee. “This has been a completely grassroots effort,” she says. “We’re just excited to have it launch and come into fruition. To implement it and to see it grow is very, very rewarding.” Yadav says an idea like UVME can be a model for similar groups in other cities around the country. She is a lawyer by profession and would like to work with other alumni to launch an affinity group for UVMers in the legal profession.

In Boston, where UVME has already had several get-togethers, a key organizer has been Scott Bailey  ’09, senior director of partnerships at MassChallenge, a Boston startup accelerator designed to connect high-impact startups from around the world with the resources they need to launch and succeed. “I wanted to start the UVME group to bring together people and help alumni see the entrepreneurial spirit that all of us are capable of,” he says. “I have a lot of pride in UVM and the community of alumni that I joined in 2009. I don’t have a lot of money, so I thought that bringing together my best friends and the community was the best way I could give back for the experience I had at UVM.”

Another early success for the Affinity Program is the Greater China Group in Shanghai, led by Dan Whitaker G’96. Whitaker is chair of the Information Technology Committee at the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai; he and his wife, Jenny ’96, have lived in Shanghai since 2008. Whitaker has been using LinkedIn to locate other UVM alumni in greater China (PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong). This affinity group will provide a vehicle for UVM alums in China to keep in touch and provide a public support group for Vermont businesspeople and academics who visit Shanghai. Chris Lucier, UVM’s vice president of enrollment management, and two of his admissions staff members met with Whitaker and members of the Greater China Group in Shanghai last year. ”There is great potential to build more connections between UVM and mainland China through an active and engaged alumni group in this region,” Whitaker says.
alumni.uvm/getinvolved/affinity

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