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UC Magazine

UC spirit runs high in Student Alumni Council

by Keith Stichtenoth, associate executive director

UC Alumni Association students become alumni. That's pretty basic stuff. And it logically follows that actively engaged students who are passionate about their university tend to become actively engaged alumni who are passionate about their alma mater.

Cultivating engagement and spirit among students is the mission of the Student Alumni Council (SAC), a group of about 60 undergraduates organized under the umbrella of the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association.

"UC is a great university with a rich history," says Brad Johnson, DAAP '08, current SAC president who quickly developed fierce Bearcat pride upon arriving in 2003 from Raleigh, N.C. "Of course, we recognize and honor our alma mater as alumni, but it should start while we're students.

"To that end, the Student Alumni Council works toward creating a greater 'alumni culture' on campus today so that we'll have a more vibrant alumni family tomorrow. Our work is aligned with the work of the UC Alumni Association so that we can get a good start on stewarding this vital, lifelong relationship between individuals and their university."

The group takes its mission seriously and comes by its reputation honestly. It currently holds the Metro Spirit Cup, awarded annually by UC's Men of Metro to the student organization demonstrating the greatest spirit and attendance at various campus and athletic events. Furthermore, SAC was named UC's top student organization overall (out of more than 300 groups) twice in the past five years.

"Traditionally, alumni are the enduring 'keepers of the school spirit,' and we're proud that SACers are living and spreading this passion more than any other UC student group," Johnson says.

Founded in the early 1980s, the Student Alumni Council boasts more than 500 alumni carrying the organization's ideals into successful careers worldwide. Membership is coveted; each year more than 100 candidates seek to join, with only about 20 selected through a process that leverages the full membership's participation.

"Our mission is very important in the big picture of UC's ongoing success, which means membership is an honor and responsibility," Johnson adds. "We feel a sense of 'passing the torch' as we move through our time as students, so we're all involved as our membership process helps define the organization. After all, SAC is our people and passion."

From the Alumni Association's perspective, the Student Alumni Council serves the university's needs in key ways.

"The UCAA is very interested in student development because we understand the direct correlation between engagement and leadership as students and then later as alumni," says Jessica Kinnemeyer, Bus '06, past SAC president. Like many of her peers, she formed her Alumni Association connection as a student, then continued in her active role as an alumna; she's now chair of UCAA's Young Alumni Scholarship Committee.

Student Alumni Council's mission manifests itself in a variety of tangible ways, including:

Volunteer work at such events as the annual Crosstown Helpout community service day, Commencement, Convocation and pre-game events at the Myers Alumni Center

Coordination of the annual Sibs Weekend, in which UC students invite their younger brothers and sisters to join them for two days of activities

The assembly and marketing of Welcome Kits for incoming freshmen, which parents purchase for delivery during a new student's first few days on campus

Two new landmarks, however, have just been achieved as the group assumes even more responsibility for Homecoming and the new "Red & Black" book. Details follow.

UC Homecoming

The University of Cincinnati's Alumni Association has always had a student Homecoming Committee to help stage the annual event, with the group typically consisting of mostly Student Alumni Council members. So last year, SAC accepted UCAA's offer to take greater ownership of the planning, production, coordination and implementation, while still working under UCAA's advisement.

"The Student Alumni Council worked year-round to effectively 'place students at the center' of the event as appropriate, while making it more special for alumni," says UCAA program manager Steve Rosfeld, A&S '04. "And there's a succession plan within SAC to bring new members into the process, let them gain experience, then migrate them into leadership positions. This ensures fresh ideas, greater student involvement and a better Homecoming experience for all."

This year's result: Homecoming 2007, which drew tens of thousands of UC alumni and friends to campus on Oct. 13, was essentially a student-driven experience with the Student Alumni Council collaborating with other groups across campus, which further strengthens the bond between UC's current and future alumni.

'The Red & Black' book

As UC Student Alumni Council members attended the annual Association of Student Advancement Programs (ASAP) Conference in mid-2006, they saw great potential in adapting an initiative of their counterparts at the University of Florida into a UC project -- a book that speaks to new students about what it means to be a Bearcat from historical, cultural, social and practical perspectives.

"We had already begun to more closely evaluate our organizational mission," SAC president Brad Johnson says. "Here came this new opportunity to impact our new students -- to let freshmen understand right away that UC is a special place with great history and pride and that they are now a part of it. They're in a long line of Bearcats for whom UC has tremendous lifelong importance and value."

Led by the initiative's executive director, Brittney Hyde, Eng '07, SACers completely developed the project into a volume called "The Red & Black," with copies distributed to the 4,000 incoming freshmen at Freshman Convocation in September. Books are available for purchase through the UC Alumni Association or UC Bookstore.

"This is just the beginning," says Ryan Vose, Eng '08, who was executive editor. "Student Alumni Council plans to update and distribute 'The Red & Black' each year, creating a new UC tradition even as it tells our newest Bearcats about all of our old traditions."

'The Red & Black' As SAC members attended the annual Association of Student Advancement Programs (ASAP) Conference in mid-2006, they saw great potential in adapting an initiative of their counterparts at the University of Florida into a UC project -- a book that speaks to new students about what it means to be a Bearcat from historical, cultural, social and practical perspectives.

"We had already begun to more closely evaluate our organizational mission," SAC president Brad Johnson says. "Here came this new opportunity to impact our new students -- to let freshmen understand right away that UC is a special place with great history and pride and that they are now a part of it. They're in a long line of Bearcats for whom UC has tremendous lifelong importance and value."

Led by the initiative's executive director, Brittney Hyde, Eng '07, SACers completely developed the project into a volume called "The Red & Black," with copies distributed to the 4,000 incoming freshmen at Freshman Convocation in September. Books are available for purchase through the UC Alumni Association or UC Bookstore.

"This is just the beginning," says Ryan Vose, Eng '08, who was executive editor. "Student Alumni Council plans to update and distribute 'The Red & Black' each year, creating a new UC tradition even as it tells our newest Bearcats about all of our old traditions."

Online alumni network offers multitude of benefits

For most alumni, thinking about their university immediately conjures images of favorite haunts and hangouts, peers and professors, all mingling in the mind's eye. And the setting is probably on campus.

It's true; nothing beats a trip back to the old stomping grounds. Yet for a growing number of Bearcats, their ongoing UC "sense of place" is also online. Indeed, thousands of alumni (as well as some students) are populating UC's online community, inCircle, to network socially and professionally.

"It needs to be easy to engage with your university and interact with each other as alumni," says Jennifer Heisey, A&S '97, the University of Cincinnati Alumni Associa-tion's senior director of alumni outreach. "Given how people communicate these days, a user-friendly online community is an important service, and we're pleased to offer the best available platform to all UC alumni."

Introduced three years ago by the UC Alumni Association as a free benefit to all UC grads, inCircle is a versatile networking tool that has steadily added new features and active participants. Because social networks grow "virally," each addition makes the service inherently stronger with more compelling opportunities.

inCircle graphic

Here's how inCircle works:

When a UC alum registers on inCircle, the first step is to create a personal profile, including only the information that he or she chooses to share. Entering specific data in the profile will naturally point the alum toward groups of fellow alumni who have things in common -- where they live, their professional fields, their college and student organizations while at UC, their special interests now, etc.

Alumni invite each other to become "friends" on the network. As these circles of friends expand and overlap, new connections within the vast UC alumni community become evident. How they are leveraged is up to each participating alum, but the process taps into people's natural tendency to gravitate toward those with shared experiences.

New features and value-adds are built into inCircle continually, so alumni can easily find job postings, upcoming events, news from UC and their friends, blogs and photos, discussion groups and more.

"Because professional networking is an often-stated, ongoing need of alumni, inCircle's powerful career development module is very highly valued," Heisey says. "Hundreds of jobs are posted on inCircle by companies that are interested in hiring from the UC family. In fact, many businesses are run by, or hiring decisions made by, UC alumni who know they'll find excellent people within the Bearcat network.

"And, of course, many jobs are filled simply through our personal networks, or 'circles.'"

Another feature of inCircle is free e-mail forwarding in which alumni can create personalized, UC alumni-branded e-mail addresses that will instantly route e-mail to any ISP-based address they choose. "It's a great option when you want to emphasize your education and UC affiliation," Heisey says.

"It also brings some permanence to your e-mail address. People will always be able to reach you via your UC alumni e-mail."

More than 225 groups on inCircle

Groups of UC alumni are constantly networking on inCircle. Each is essentially a virtual community of Bearcats built around what their members have in common -- involvement in student clubs or organizations, careers in certain fields or industries, geographic locations, fraternities or sororities, academic and honorary organizations, hobbies, interests or any common thread that ties varied UC alumni together.

That means discussion is always humming on inCircle because there are so many of these common-interest groups -- more than 225 and rising. After all, when someone doesn't find exactly what they're looking for, they can start a new group. That's how they all started anyway.

Here's just a small sample of the interest groups active on inCircle:

UC Entrepreneurs
Sigma Sigma
College of Business Accounting Alumni
Bearcats in the Big Apple
African American Alumni
Engineering Tribunal
UC on YouTube
Bearcat Football Fans
UC Worldwide Travelers
Motorcycle Enthusiasts
Central Ohio Alumni
Poets
UC Bearcat Bands
Young Alumni
Sell to and Buy from China
UC Alumni Recruitment Team (UCART)