Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Eighteen North America-based alumni – all fully vaccinated and PCR-tested – attended the WAAAUB North American Alumni Retreat at the AUB New York Office (The Debs Center) on November 20. They were joined by alumni who participated virtually from a dozen different locations to brainstorm, exchange ideas, and to hear updates from campus from both President Fadlo R. Khuri and Vice President for Advancement and Business Development Imad B. Baalbaki. Representatives from 17 alumni chapters took part.
In his remarks, Khuri thanked alumni for their support, which is so important – especially during these critical times. He talked about Lebanon's “enormous potential" and the role of AUB: “This university will make an enormous difference," he said. “We offer an opportunity for self-transformation." Khuri spoke about the urgent need for “alumni to step up" – “every alum must give" – noting that alumni participation was enormously important for the university's efforts to secure funding from foundations and other donors.
Baalbaki thanked alumni “for what you have done, are doing, and will do" for their alma mater, which he described as “a university with a mission." He spoke about AUB's special role in Lebanon and the region: “these are our families, our children, our parents, and our communities," he said. Baalbaki also provided a brief update on the successful BOLDLY AUB fundraising campaign and the AUB Fundraising Dinner in New York City on November 19. He concluded his remarks by urging all alumni to participate in AUB Giving Day on December 6.
WAAAUB Advisory Board Chair Haytham Kaafarani, who was one of four Advisory Board members who attended the retreat, spoke forcefully about the need for AUB “not just to survive, but to lead" at this time. AUB Trustee and WAAAUB Advisory Board member Leila Bissat and WAAAUB Advisory Board member Rim Bassil were among the alumni who gathered in the Debs Center. Trustee and WAAAUB Advisory Board member Salwa Darraj was one of the virtual attendees.
There was enormous energy during the retreat as alumni reflected about their activities during the pandemic and the challenges they faced – and what they could do to overcome those challenges. Many alumni expressed an interest in receiving more stories – “we need success stories" – and more frequent updates from campus: “we want to see what is happening on the ground." Alumni also talked about what they could do to more successfully engage non-alumni noting that this group is less familiar with AUB and so needs to be targeted differently.
Associate Director of Alumni Relations and Advancement Programs Justin Tessier reminded alumni of some of the resources that AUB now offers to support alumni career development such as the AUB Alumni Mentoring Platform, the AUB Alumni Mobile App, and the AUB Career Portal and Job Vacancies List. He also urged alumni to sign up for the mentoring platform, which provides important support especially for recent graduates. Many alumni expressed their frustrations: “we want to help, but don't know of AUB students or recent graduates in our area." Everyone agreed that more could be done to let AUB students know about the presence of 66 alumni chapters and branches around the world – and that alumni are willing and able to help AUB students and alumni.
There was broad support for Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations-North America and General Secretary of WAAAUB Lina Jazi's suggestion for a Community Service Month in which alumni chapters would get involved in a project in their community. “It benefits a good cause in your community and creates awareness of AUB among non-alumni and non-Lebanese," explained Jazi. Other suggestions for ways to increase awareness, participation, and/or financial support: introduce an alumni credit card, approach high-profile alumni and ask them to organize an event, encourage alumni to sign up for regular monthly donations to AUB, etc.
Associate Vice President for Development Walid Katergi and Associate Vice President for Advancement Patrick O'Connell made presentations about fundraising focusing especially on the patient funds at the AUB Medical Center and scholarships. There were lots of questions, some terrific suggestions, and a strong commitment to work together. Other issues that were on the agenda included compliance – what US and Lebanese law requires that AUB do – and communications/social media. Alumni Relations Officer Marika Fraser, who works most closely with chapters in North America on social media talked about best practices.
“I am so proud of all of our chapters in North America," said Jazi. “The commitment to our alma mater and the eagerness to help is inspiring. We have challenges, but we have so many good ideas. We also have a terrific team in North America and Beirut that is equally dedicated."