Chapter leadership is a great way to get involved in your area. Your volunteer service is critical to the Alumni Association's mission and vision. This page provides you with the resources necessary to be an effective volunteer leader.
From starting a chapter to developing new programs, Vanderbilt chapters have a number of great stories describing their efforts to bring alumni together. The stories below might just provide inspiration for something new at your chapter.
Professional development panel in Washington D.C.
The Washington D.C. Vanderbilt Chapter held an MBA panel discussion Tuesday, Jan 14 for prospective business school students. This professional development and networking event provided local alumni with valuable insight into the admissions process, student recommendations and career benefits for graduate business school.
The event was a great success; our all-Vanderbilt alumni panel captivated the audience and left them feeling much more confident about achieving an MBA and its benefits. Cate Rooney, BS '12, said, "The panel answered a lot of questions I had about the application process as well as how to make the most out of an MBA. It was great to hear from people both in a program and those who had completed one."
The event was free and all DC area Vanderbilt alumni were invited. Moving forward, it provides a template for other professional school panel events.
Chris Baity, BA '10
Starting a new chapter in Mobile
When I returned home to Mobile a few years ago, I was really eager to cultivate a Vanderbilt alumni chapter here and had heard from older alumni in the area that there had been events in the past, but that there wasn't much drive to keep it going. After working with some resourceful and helpful Vanderbilt employees in the Office of Alumni Relations, we learned that the number of Commodores in Mobile presented a huge opportunity to develop a strong group.
Our first step was a survey to Mobile alumni asking them about the types of events they'd like to see and if they would be willing to help organize events, etc. This survey was very helpful with learning people's names and getting to know the ones that were particularly interested in helping start a chapter (it definitely needs to be a team effort to succeed). At first we were having parties at bars where we could reserve a free, private room and just have people pay for their own drinks and food. We had decent turnouts, but it was mostly current students, their parents, and very young alumni, so the headcount would be around 15-20 people.
After a couple years of this, I had finally formed a committed group of people who really enjoyed coming to the events and was able to find a couple to host the upcoming Christmas party at their house. I strategically asked an alumnus in his fifties who knew lots of people in order to draw more generations of alumni to the party.
Last year, we had twice as many people come than had attended any other party because it was at someone's house, which made it much cozier. We requested people to register in advance in order to pay for the wine and beer, and I reached out to a handful of current students' parents to volunteer to bring hors d'oeuvres.
Since that party, excitement about our chapter has increased, and more people have started offering their homes for parties—without me having to ask. Last year we had a history professor for an educational event, and the parents of a senior hosted our Summer Send-Off Party. More people read our email invitations and our last Christmas party, at the home of a current student, had a really exciting turnout of 50 people!
While we still struggle with making sure everyone pays their fair share of registration fees, we picked a low fee of $7 a person or $10 per couple in order to entice people to still come. We look forward to planning a service project this spring to add some variety to our chapter gatherings!
Haden Sirmon, BS '08
Christmas philanthropy in St. Louis with two Commodore greats
You know you are in a special community when your group fills up all the volunteer slots at the St. Louis Food Bank, an especially noble endeavor considering it was the Saturday morning before Christmas. We had a full group of alumni, current students and families show up at 10 a.m. to sort and package boxes of food so hungry families could have a meal on Christmas. It always amazes me when people volunteer, but especially at Christmas time, when I know we are competing with holiday shopping, parties, sleigh rides, and sledding. The last thing anyone wants to do is stand in a warehouse and sort through expired, damaged or rotting cans of food. Yet there we were, black and gold strong, ready to work for the next three hours.
After 90 minutes we got a special surprise. Zac Stacy, current starting running back for the St. Louis Rams and holder of all the rushing records in Vanderbilt history (or at least it sure seems like it) showed up. A buzz filled the warehouse. Soon after Zac, Chris Williams, a former first round pick who allowed less sacks at Vanderbilt than I have fingers, walked through the door. Zac and Chris, on the eve before a game against the Tampa Bay Bucs, took time out of their day to show fellow Vandy alumni their support. So many times I have cheered for these warriors of the grid iron and here they were cheering for me amid a mountain of boxes and cans. It was a surreal experience, but I wasn't surprised. Vanderbilt attracts special people to its campus, people who understand what it means to be a part of something bigger than just an individual. Zac and Chris greeted, shook hands and genuinely thanked everyone for coming to volunteer. A testament to the type of character and integrity it takes to be a member of the Vanderbilt community.
They don't keep records for pounds sorted at the food bank, but our goal that morning was to fill six palettes. We filled over eight, and the food bank workers had to actually come over and tell us to stop. We couldn't help it, we were running off of this exciting energy after Zac and Chris showed up. We were a team, each individual doing their small part to fill boxes, sorting through pounds of food like the Vandy offense storms the field during their two-minute drill. I was so very proud to have a role in this.
In the end we helped sort through 27,680 lbs. of food, which will provide 22,596 meals to families this Christmas. And that is what really made this event remarkable, people coming together to help those less fortunate. Our football team makes a big production of linking individual chains to a common goal, symbolized by the anchor. The message is simple but powerful, everyone working together to form a chain, an unbreakable chain, and when linked, we can accomplish great things.
That day we linked up with the chain, reminding one another that although we are no longer on campus, we are all connected to the anchor; and together we can do amazing things. And that is why Vanderbilt will never be "just a school."
Kevin Dolohanty, BA '05
President of the St. Louis Vanderbilt Chapter