March 22, 2019
The Power of Keeping CMU Alumni Connected
By Deborah Taylor
Network volunteers keep the Tartan spirit alive all around the world.
The interconnectedness and camaraderie that Carnegie Mellon’s students enjoy doesn’t end at graduation: It shines in the alumni networks. Scattered across the globe, CMU’s regional and identity networks help alumni maintain their links to the university and one another, and volunteers play a significant role in the ongoing success of these networks.
“Our 250 network volunteers are true partners with the Alumni Association,” says Mara Kohls, senior director, alumni relations. “They are CMU ambassadors, advocating for the university and telling our story, and they build communities where they live or with whom they identify.”
Today, Carnegie Mellon has 30 regional, 21 international and 3 identity networks that reflect its alumni’s growth in size, expanse and diversity. Each network is distinctive, with custom programming reflecting its locality and alumni population. Volunteers contribute on everything from helping with event logistics to full-scale event planning to counseling and advising students and new alumni.
Lamyae Reklaoui (E 2015) describes the Chicago Network as “super-friendly and super-welcoming.” As its president, she works with a vice-president and a committee of eight to 12 members to develop twice-monthly programming ― it may be a happy hour, a networking lunch or, in deference to Chicago’s winter weather, an outdoor curling session.
The Chicago Network was Reklaoui’s haven for meeting new people when she relocated to the city after graduation. She found herself attending most events and becoming deeply involved with the group. Her devotion to the network grew because she loves the work and appreciates her CMU experience.
“As a graduate student, I had great professors and modern facilities. Working with the network is a way for me to give back,” she explains.
Reklaoui has added a social media ambassador to her team, who posts updates on Facebook and LinkedIn, and she brims with ambitious goals: recruit more members; increase the number of monthly events; and plan events that will welcome alumni from all age groups ― perhaps even family-friendly events in the suburbs on weekends.
Alumni leader Will Frankenstein (E 2016) contributes substantial time and energy as the university’s Washington, D.C., representative for cmuOUT, the identity-based network for LGBTQIA alumni. He continues the advocacy he began in 2013 while a graduate student.
“I realized there was a gap in engaging and bringing together the LGBTQ+ grad community ― that’s when I created Allies Grad. Once I graduated, I wanted to stay plugged into that community and help facilitate these connections for other alumni,” he explains. “I reached out to other alumni in the region to increase our LGBTQ+ engagement.”
Frankenstein is motivated to help the LGBTQ+ community make connections ― within the CMU community and beyond. He organizes happy hours in the D.C. area during Pride Month, and he keeps alumni plugged into the Lavender League, an umbrella network of LGBTQ+ organizations at institutions including Case Western, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, MIT and Duke.
“We’re active in so many fields, whether it’s the arts, technology or business,” he says. “I want to make sure we have the opportunity to connect and help each other as much as possible.”
As a member of the Washington, D.C., Alumni Association Board, he also plans and executes various events for the wider alumni population in the metropolitan area.
“If you’re looking to meet a really inspiring group of people, volunteer. Everybody who graduates from Carnegie Mellon is doing something interesting, and one of the benefits of being an alum is hearing the stories of what people are working on and how they’re making a difference,” Frankenstein says. “That’s truly one of the most inspiring things about being a leader with this group.”