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As president and CEO of Handel Information Technologies Inc., Even Brande is one of many alumni who welcome UW interns. UW alumna Chelsea Combe was offered a job at Handel after completing her internship.
UW’s involved staff, faculty and administrators demonstrate a passion for giving UW students the best experience possible. “There’s so much cross-pollination among all the divisions of the university in supporting students,” says Sara Axelson, vice president for student affairs, citing the commitment for outstanding educational opportunities that are delivered by the faculty through excellent classroom instruction and undergraduate research experiences for students, financial literacy workshops provided by the UW Division of Administration, daily support by Information Technology and the many employees across the university reaching out to students to provide support in and outside the classroom. “I love being in student affairs at UW because our other divisions are so student-oriented,” Axelson says.
“We have so many faculty members who take a personal interest in the students and become a de facto mentor,” says Axelson, who is a second-generation UW graduate. “When I look at the most worthwhile part of my role, it’s when you make individual connections with students who you really believe in, and you know they’re going to make a difference in what they do upon graduation.”
“Our older daughter Erin was the first to come to Wyoming, and then two years later her sister Colleen also attended UW,” says Dan Herlihey of Loveland, Colo. Vickie Herlihey volunteered for the Cowboy Parents council, and Dan soon joined her. “The Cowboy Parents organization is an organization for all parents of UW students,” he says.
“We try to come up with ways to increase communication with the families of students,” says Vickie Herlihey, whose daughters graduated in 2011 and 2013. Approximately 20 parents sit on the Cowboy Parents council, and council members are available at orientations, Discovery Days for prospective students and Family Weekend to talk to parents and answer questions. Cowboy Parents also raise money for an emergency fund that helps families with transportation costs during emergency trips to or from campus.
"I strongly believe that I couldn’t have received a better educational experience
at any other university in the country."
—Alumnus Milo Page.
At graduation, the UW Alumni Association welcomes new alumni into the fold. “We present each graduate with a bucking horse and rider lapel pin and a one-year membership to the alumni association that is sponsored by the UW Foundation, student affairs and the alumni association,” says Keener Fry, executive director of alumni relations.
“Student experiences when in school are the defining experiences that will shape attitudes in becoming active alumni,” says Ben Blalock, president and CEO of the UW Foundation. “If you have a great student experience, there is an increased likelihood that you will become a member of the alumni association. In addition, an alum may seek expanded opportunities to become engaged with their alma mater through a host of activities. Financial contributions may also follow. The student experience is the first step in what so very often becomes a lifetime commitment to a university.”
“I’m an alumnus, and I contribute to the areas that influenced me when I was in school,” says Toby Marlatt, senior associate vice president for marketing and communications at the foundation. “Being involved in fundraising and philanthropy at the university allows me to see how programs are impacted by even the smallest gift.”
In addition to giving in support of the university, alumni become involved in many ways, including serving on UW advisory and governance boards for specific colleges, the foundation, the alumni association and the Cowboy Joe Club. “We need leaders, and those come from engaged and excited alumni,” Fry says. “Serving on UW boards is a very rewarding experience.” He also encourages alumni to advocate for UW to prospective students in their areas.
“When you have alumni who are willing to come back and get engaged with students, it helps the students to understand what they can become,” Blalock says. “I’ve been in this career for about 25 years, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing the impact that alumni play in the lives of students.”
“I think the alumni connection is the most important,” Jo Chytka, director of the UW Center for Advising and Career Services, says of the businesses that hire UW interns and graduates. “The loyalty of the people who have left and their willingness to come back or help students is one of the things that make UW special. I often send students to alumni with questions, and the alumni respond. If they’ve opened a door, it’s just amazing how willing they are to help other students come through it.”
Among the many programs that help students transition into the workforce is a mentoring program that pairs UW seniors with alumni on the foundation and alumni association boards. “You will find that our alumni want to help UW students,” Blalock says. “When we give them that opportunity, and we’ve trained our students well, they will do anything to help these students succeed.”
“Helping students figure out what they want to do is one of the greatest joys there is,” Chytka says. “Our students are amazing and turn into amazing alumni and employees.”
In the last fiscal year, the UW Foundation raised $50.7 million in private gifts to the university, much of that from alumni or companies where alumni work.
“Some of the biggest smiles I see are when people have made large gifts to the university,” Blalock says. “They feel very good about what they’re doing. They know they’re having an impact—they know they’re making a difference.”
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