Attending the Duquesne University President’s Inauguration

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On Thursday, September 22, 2016, I had the honor and privilege of attending the Duquesne University President’s Inauguration. You may think it’s odd that I was there, considering I have absolutely no connection to Duquesne whatsoever, and in fact, before that day, I had never actually even been on Duquesne’s campus. This opportunity came about for me, when I got an email from someone at the University of Delaware’s Alumni office, saying that UD’s President, Dr. Dennis Assanis, had been invited to this Inauguration, but he was unable to attend – since I am the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club President, would I like to represent him instead?

Absolutely. My first thought was that it would be a great networking opportunity, but also, if nothing else, it would be a unique experience on its own. Continue reading

Words to My 20-Year-Old Self

Recently, I was reading through some of my old writing and journals because Jim and I couldn’t remember what we were doing this time last year. I don’t know if we were talking about a specific date or just life in general, but I pulled out the archives of my life and started reading.

Out of curiosity, and boredom, I opened up some files from 2010 and 2011 and got hooked on reading through my college years. Some people may never want to look back on those years ever again, some people may not be able to remember college or may only remember hazy, inebriated moments, and others prefer to only remember the good stuff. I, however, wrote it all down. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I wanted to be able to look back on my years of swimming and parties and friends and classes and studying and working and really know what it was like to go through it all.  Continue reading

Super Bowl Sunday: Who Are Your Champions?

Who Are Your Champions

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the grocery store was packed. I mean packed. I don’t know why I didn’t think to get my weekly stash of life-sustaining food yesterday, but I didn’t. So I drove over there today, in a blizzard, parked on the lower level of the garage after driving through every row of the first level, and managed to push my way down the aisles for an hour without having a breakdown. Huge success, considering it was so crowded that they’d run out of hot sauce, and almost everyone in the store was packed into the condiments aisle waiting to see if it would be restocked.

As I was patiently waiting in the checkout line and handing over my coupons, it occurred to me that this is crazy. Continue reading

University of Delaware Tailgate in the Burgh

UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club BoardWhen I graduated from the University of Delaware in 2012 and moved back to Pittsburgh without a job, I thought I was leaving everything behind. My friends and classmates I’d met at UD were mostly from the east coast, as well as my professors and potential job contacts. I’d had work experience affiliated with the university and I’d become familiar with the area and the companies. I’d consulted with a staff member at Career Services and I perused the job boards on their website many times, and it seemed that they had the most connections in east coast cities.

When I moved back home, I felt lost. I was working as a waitress, attempting to reconnect with a few high school friends, and struggling to search for a job on my own. I thought I had lost my network.

But by a miraculous stroke of luck or fate, I came across the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Blue Hen City. Just a few months after meeting a few fellow alumni, I felt like I’d found my home again.

Continue reading

What You Don’t Know, As You Head Off to College

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This past weekend, my family gathered to celebrate my cousin Abby’s graduation from high school. Aunts and uncles and cousins came together from all over Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia to celebrate the twelfth cousin of the family to graduate and head off to college.

As the newest inductee into the high school graduate club, my cousin doesn’t know yet what she is in for. She’s about to start her next chapter in life at the University of Dayton in Ohio. She doesn’t even know yet how good it’s going to be. She doesn’t understand the college memes or the post-grad-problems or the Buzzfeed lists. She can’t yet fathom how much trouble she’ll get into. She doesn’t know which girls will become her best friends or which boys will break her heart. She can’t know that yet, but she will.

Continue reading

A Snapshot of the Past Four Years

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A relationship is one spectacular journey. It is putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes uphill, sometimes down. There are rocky pathways and blue skies and lessons learned along the way. My journey has so far taken four years, side by side with the most amazing person I know.

When I was in high school, if someone told me I’d someday be dating someone for over four years, I’d say they were crazy. Back then, we thought that four months was a long time. In high school, you think the person you like to spend time with will become the person you date and then the person you marry, but the whole relationship escalates in just a few weeks and then there’s nowhere to go, so you both explode in an earth-shattering fight and call the whole thing off.

But real relationships are different.  Continue reading

Pittsburgh Blue Hens’ First Summer Picnic

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Once again, I was taken aback by the enthusiasm and college pride shown by my fellow Delaware alumni.

Last weekend, the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club hosted a Blue Hen Picnic event in North Park. As the newly instated Vice President of the club, I had decided back in April or May that this would be the perfect event. I believed that by having a casual summer picnic, we could break away from the happy hour, downtown crowd of the usual events and start to attract new alumni, bring some families out, gain a reputation as a club that has various events for all interests, ages, and life stages. Continue reading

House hunters: Pittsburgh edition

In college, I led the search for a house for my roommates and I after our freshman year. We were determined to live off-campus as soon as we could, because that’s what the other girls on the swim team had done. We had few criteria–we wanted to be within walking distance to the pool and we each wanted our own bedroom. That was about all we looked for that first year.

And I learned my lesson. Continue reading

A Blue Hen Forever

UD Pgh Alumni Club at a Pirates Game, May 3, 2013

UD Pgh Alumni Club at a Pirates Game, May 3, 2013

It started with a happy hour. 

I had gotten an email from the office of the University of Delaware Alumni Relations, saying there was an event for UD Alumni in my area and I was invited.

As a general rule, I had dismissed UD emails, ever since graduation. Delete, delete, delete. I loved my four years, but I’ve done my time. All they want is money and I’m sorry, but I just don’t have any. I’ll be paying off those four year for ten more, so nope, I don’t think so.

Except the words “Happy Hour” jumped out at me. So I begged my friend Laura to come along, just see how it was, we could leave if it was super lame.

It was a Friday evening after work. We ended up staying for a few drinks and a few appetizers. And I actually had a great time.

When I went to college in the state of Delaware, it didn’t occur to me that when I graduated and possibly moved back home, that I would be leaving all my friends and would be very far from the people I’d met and grown to love. My friends are scattered across the east coast and trickling into the south. All by myself in Pittsburgh, I find myself missing my friends from Delaware, a phone call just not cutting it.

So when I walked into the Harris Grill and started talking to some of the alumni, I was amazed. They had lived on the same street I did. They had frequented the same bars. They remembered the same things. Some were athletes like I was, others had taken the same classes. I found that I could strike up a conversation with anyone in the room and feel comfortable. I felt like I had found a unique little family there.

Laura and I didn’t stay the whole time, but I didn’t leave without the promise of more. I was introduced to a board member of the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club and he mentioned that he needed help. I said yes and handed him my card.

So here I am, planning events, making budgets, and connecting with UD Alumni in the Burgh. A position that I never thought I would be in. I thought that my four years would end and that would be that. But I hadn’t realized, as I walked across the stage at graduation, that my college experience is a part of me and it won’t just disappear because I no longer have a Newark zip code.

Last weekend, I went back to UD for Alumni Weekend. I really just wanted an excuse to get together with my college roommate and best friend who happens to live in North Carolina, too far away for a weekend visit. But the trip ended up being a little more than that.

Before the weekend activities officially started, I attended a luncheon with University of Delaware President, Patrick Harker, followed by a new volunteer training session.  I was able to meet fellow alumni from across the U.S. who had attended the university for many reasons and had then become involved in their respective Alumni Clubs for so many different reasons. Everyone had a unique story to tell, but the theme was generally the same. They came across UD alumni or alumni clubs, remembered what an impact their college experience had on their life, and wanted to connect and reconnect with others.

It was a revelation for me. I have friends, and have met others, who love their school and who will identify with their school for as long as they live, regardless of alumni clubs or networking. But those people go to “football schools”–Penn State, Ohio State, Pitt, Michigan, etc. Their loyalty lies in the fact that their school is famous in the media. People rally around players and teams, whether they attended or not.

And here I was at UD, meeting people of every age who feel that way, despite the fact that our school is not a “football school.” These people were genuinely happy to be back on campus with fellow volunteers, to tell their story, and to find new ways to engage alumni.

I learned how much Alumni Relations and the Alumni Association has grown in the past few years and how much more active alumni have become across the country. President Harker expressed his sincere thanks, acknowledging that it couldn’t be done without volunteers like us who plan events and spread the word.

After lunch, the new volunteers broke off into groups to brainstorm about events and come up with solutions to common challenges that every club faces. These challenges include having fellow board members who are too busy to help plan events or getting stuck in the rut of having the same type of events over and over, among others.

I realized that a lot of the clubs in different cities have very few board members, just like Pittsburgh, or they are brand new and are struggling with pulling new members in, also like Pittsburgh. It was comforting to hear the stories, struggles and successes of others, and I learned I was not alone.

I came back armed with inspiration and new ideas for events and ways to connect with alumni in my area. As a young professional, I feel that I  have the advantage in this Alumni Club-situation. I can plan these events, gaining valuable experience in the process–learning communication and marketing skills–and I can make connections and expand my professional network with the people I meet. The way I see it, this is a win-win for me.

I am (slowly but surely) learning to  plan these events and am becoming more confident in my new role. Not to mention, I’m meeting some pretty awesome people, who have amazing stories to tell.

 

If you are a UD alum in the Pittsburgh area, you can follow the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club on Facebook here or find out more about UD Alumni Relations and Alumni Clubs in general here

Post-College Campus Tour

Abby, Lindsay and I with the statue of James Madison

Abby, Lindsay and I with the statue of James Madison

I visited my sister at James Madison University this past weekend.

Let me remind you, tales of my journeys are not to be taken lightly. Traveling and/or driving somewhere new is a big deal for me.

Luckily, I was not alone.

My cousin Abby is a junior in high school. She is at that magical age when you start to look at all the possibilities that are just beyond the classrooms that you begin to refer to as prison cells. But just barely. She thought (or maybe her parents thought) it would be a good idea to check out JMU. It’s easy enough to visit, while my sister is there, so why not?

We drove down on Friday morning. I won’t get too much into my little antics on the drive down–we all know I have trouble with directions. Let’s just say, my parents told me about a “shortcut” (which I guess it was) but apparently my knowledge of geography is lacking. I got a little confused (read: freaking out) when I noticed a sign for Maryland about two hours in. I thought I had somehow driven the entire way across Pennsylvania to get to Maryland. (Who knew you could go from Pennsylvania to Maryland to West Virginia to Virginia within fifteen minutes??? Obviously not me.)

Anyways….we got there just fine.

Since it was Easter weekend, Lindsay said that her roommate and suitemates would be gone for the weekend and were generously offering their beds to sleep in if we needed them.

Two of her suite-mates were still there when we got there, so we got to meet them. They said Lindsay and I are exactly alike. That’s news to me.

Overlooking the JMU campus

Overlooking the JMU campus

Then Lindsay took us on a short walking tour of the campus. And let me tell you, JMU is BEAUTIFUL. If I were in my cousin’s position, I would look no further. The campus is idyllic in that it is everything you think of when you think of going away to college and staying on a campus. It has that impressive campus feel. Pretty gray brick buildings that match, lots of walking paths, green fields, a quad, statues. Dorms were in clusters with names like Hillside and Fox and the Village. Huge dining halls and other places to eat in almost every building. (Apparently JMU is ranked #4 in best food on campus.) Not to mention the picturesque Virginia mountains in the background.

I couldn’t help comparing everything we did with my experiences at the University of Delaware. I’m not saying that I would have traded those experiences. But maybe had I looked at JMU when I was in high school, I would have considered it. I was tallying up the pros and cons, and as far as I could see in a weekend visit, there weren’t many cons.

**Maybe I should make a note here: this is not, I repeat NOT a paid endorsement for James Madison University. I swear. I was simply in love with the campus.

jamesmadisonMiraculously, we had beautiful weather that weekend. Blue skies and sun. We took pictures overlooking the campus and the mountains and with James Madison himself, of course.

We got to meet some of Lindsay’s friends and classmates, and see a few other dorms and apartments. We visited the campus bookstore and bought matching JMU t-shirts. Because everyone needs a bright neon shirt. We got to eat at the dining hall and a place called Dukes. Dining hall food is still dining hall food, no matter where you go, but I was not complaining–they had tater tots and bacon, what more could I want?

We were going to try to see a movie Saturday afternoon, but apparently they were having some electrical issues and couldn’t get the power to stay on. We ended up getting our money back, but I would have to say that was a con for the school. We went to the mall instead. Small mall but at least they had a few good stores. And it was very close to campus, close to restaurants and a bowling alley.

We went out to dinner at a place called Clementine’s. It was fantastic. I wish we could have stayed for the live music but it wasn’t until 10 PM. So after dinner we went to an ice cream place called Kline’s, where they serve their own homemade ice-cream.

On Sunday morning we went to Easter mass on campus. It was really refreshing to see a mass held on a college campus, with students singing and playing guitar.

We left soon after that. And don’t worry, we got home without any mishaps.

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There’s a lot I could say about going on this trip with  my cousin looking at colleges.

Like, how does any 17-year-old high school kid know what they’re looking for? How do they know if they want the serene, 19th-century campus, or the busy city campus? How do they know what they want to do with their lives after high school?

Or, if you had the chance, would you do it differently? Did your actual college experience hold true to those campus-tour-expectations? If you knew what else was out there, how it could have been somewhere else, would you change your mind?

I like to believe that the choices you make take you where you’re supposed to go. I wouldn’t be who I am or have some amazing people in my life if I hadn’t gone to Delaware.

But when you’re on a beautiful campus, on a gorgeous day, it’s hard not to wonder.