By Avonlea Brown
Homecoming is one of the most prodigious celebrations on campus with over 50 events in the span of two days. To make the weekend run smoothly, the Alumni Engagement office teams up with a small community of students who make connecting past and current students possible.
The Student Alumni Association(SAA), is a group of 12 to 15 students who are elected to serve as liaisons between alumni and students. SAA inducts students based on recommendations from fellow SAA students, faculty and staff who feel they possess the leadership potential and work ethic to join the group.
“There’s also a little bit of a leadership aspect to it,” said Emily Wollschlager, a junior Computer Science major and member of SAA. “Especially with Homecoming and working with the volunteers that come along and being a bridge between like them and the alumni and the advancement staff.”
SAA helps plan and organize events with the Alumni Engagement office such as Getting Started Weekend, Homecoming and Graduation.
To students, SAA is the behind-the-scenes coordinators of events and some of the first people they meet when visiting campus. SAA works with Campus Experience and the Advancement Division to set up activities for incoming freshmen who have connections to alumni such as their children or grandchildren.
At every CU Friday SAA mans a table where alumni can bring their children to introduce them as prospective students. The representatives at the table talk about campus and create connections before the student even enrolls.
“Those incoming students are going to connect better with a current student than with me,” said Director of Alumni Engagement Diana Perkey. “And my Student Alumni Association, they interact with the alumni, and they can also interact with their kids.”
SAA also serves alumni as ambassadors for the student body, tying them to campus.
“I think about my parents,” Reyna Golson, a sophomore Strategic Communications major and SAA member, said. “They’re 30 years removed from their college days and they still talk about the memories they have and friendships they have from college. So to be able to keep those memories alive and those relationships alive for alumni, it’s important for us to be able to rekindle that.”
Golson learned about the SAA freshman year when she volunteered at Homecoming. She admired the easy interaction between students, administration and alumni and thought joining would give her a good opportunity to network with alumni to hear their stories.
“I think it’s really special just for students to be able to hear people’s stories who have walked the same hallways and sat in the same seats as us,” Golson said. “Just to see how the Lord has worked through their lives from when they graduated to wherever they are in life and just to sort of be an encouragement to students here, but also an encouragement to [alumni] as well.”
Emily Miller joined SAA during her junior year when a fellow student in her bro-sis recommended her. She never considered alumni relations as a job possibility on campus but quickly realized its significance to the connection between alumni and the university.
“The importance is just continuing that community post-Cedarville,” Miller said. “Just having the opportunity to network to connect and to make those connections post-grad and know that there are so many alumni that are in your corner and that you can reach out to. And they’ll help you with the job or help you find a community in the city that you’re moving to. I would have full confidence that an alum would do that for me, which is really cool because I don’t know how many other colleges and universities are like that.”
This year Miller took on organizing the Banner Year reunion parties for alumni celebrating milestone years since graduation. Her time on SAA gave her insight into the extensive background work it takes to provide quality services on campus.
“Since being on SAA it’s been really cool to see all of the behind-the-scenes and to see everything that their department does and how important it is for campus, like raising big funds and grants,” Miller said. “And so it’s been kind of cool to hear and learn from fac-staff in that department just kind of about what they do and how it impacts us as students.”
Once a week the team meets with Director of Alumni Engagement Diana Perkey to plan events and fellowship with one another. The small group allows for real relationships and community to form between SAA, making the job more fun than work.
“It’s a lot easier to get to know people, and it’s a smaller group and also work together as a team,” Miller said.
The Alumni Engagement office also provides special opportunities for the members of SAA to learn and network with alumni.
“We bring in alumni to come in and speak to them on leadership development, we have gone out and served with local alumni who have ministries,” Perkey said. “We are taking an SAA global outreach trip to serve an alum who’s a full-time missionary in Mexico over spring break. So there are lots of ways for them to interact.”
SAA gives students the chance to represent the university in a completely new way, an experience Wollschlager, Golson and Miller do not take for granted.
“I think that SAA is a really unique spot that we fill,” Wollschlager said. “Because we are kind of the face of Cedarville to the alumni, but we also represent the alumni to the student body.”
Avonlea Brown is a junior Broadcasting, Digital Media, and Journalism major from a small town in Maine. She is the co-editor of Campus News for Cedars Student News and currently working towards going abroad to study international journalism. She likes reading, travel, and learning new things.