With more than 36,000 graduates, Florida Gulf Coast University’s Alumni Association is growing by leaps and bounds. But association leaders realized that when it came to graduates engaging with their alma mater, there was a distinct lack of diversity.
“We want all of our alums to feel a part of their university,” said Kim Wallace, director of Alumni Relations (’06, Communication; ’09, School Counseling M.A.).
So with the help of Jalisa White (‘18, Political Science, Business Management), former Student Government president and programming chair of the Alumni Association, they developed a survey seeking input from alumni with diverse backgrounds to determine what they might want from the alumni association. The result: the newly formed Multicultural Alumni Network.
Andrea Jarquin (’17, Communication, Sociology) serves as chair of the network. “Based on the survey results, we determined there was a need for an organization that focused on alumni with diverse backgrounds, not just race or ethnicity but also gender, professions, first generation, economic status and abilities. We felt that creating this network will increase engagement among alumni.”
Wallace said the idea for a network of this type has been on the association’s wish list for a while, but they lacked the volunteers needed to make it happen. “Then Jalisa reached out and it grew organically. Through the survey we found other alums to help get those of all colors and religious beliefs to come together and reconnect with the university. We are really excited.”
While still primarily in the planning phase, the group is hosting its first event on Nov. 20, a lunch-and-learn session with a panel of FGCU leaders of color. See the accompanying box for information on who will be appearing and how to register.
The group is forming numerous committees, including membership, government relations, fundraising, multicultural and leadership liaison in order to pursue initiatives in each area. Those who join are welcome to participate in one or more committees and help determine what each one will tackle. The network expects to begin a full slate of activities in 2021.
“One of our goals is to make the transition from student to alumni a little more seamless,” Jarquin said. “We understand that many who go to FGCU come from diverse backgrounds, may be first generation students and don’t know what healthy engagement as alumni looks like.”
She cites her own background as a first-generation college student whose parents came from Nicaragua.
“I didn’t know I could maintain a relationship with FGCU after I graduated,” she said.
Jarquin also believes this organization can help bring attention to issues that need it.
“We want to be on the front lines of things that come up at FGCU and in the community. We don’t plan to shy away from what is hard to say. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel — just bring resources to light and get them to those who need them,” she said.
They also hope to collect current email addresses for alums as well, realizing that Eagle email isn’t used as much after individuals graduate and establish careers. It will be easier to stay in touch that way.
Other plans include professional development, creating a panel of diverse alumni who can help increase fellow graduates’ connections to various companies and businesses with the goal of helping fellow Eagles land good jobs.
The group plans to create mentorships and nurture the university’s growing Hispanic population, which is growing toward the 25 percent mark, at which point it will be designated an official Hispanic-Serving Institution.
“We want to make sure that it’s Hispanic serving, not just enrolling,” Jarquin said. “I recall my experience as an undergrad, seeing the disparity of farmworkers from Immokalee and the experience of students from Naples. We want to make sure our Hispanic students feel supported.”
Wallace believes that the network will add a much-needed dimension to the Alumni Association.
“I think it will engage an audience who never felt engaged before,” she said.
What: Lunch and Learn with the Multicultural Alumni Network
When: 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20
Panelists: Precious Gunter, director of Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance and Title IX coordinator; Travell Oakes, coordinator of leadership development, Multicultural & Leadership Development Center; Andrea Jarquin, chair of the Multicultural Alumni Network; and Saul Laguerre, FGCU TRIO and Outreach program assistant and treasurer of the Black Faculty and Staff Association.
Details: Learn about campus initiatives to expand diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and in the community. Also learn about the Multicultural Alumni Network, which will work to strengthen the bonds between alumni and students of color.
Information: Contact the network at [email protected]
ABOUT FGCU ALUMNI
Asian/Pacific – 548
Black – 1,643
Hispanic – 3,473
Indian – 50
Other – 93
White – 20,800
Unspecified – 9,622