Over the past several years, Binghamton University’s alumni base has been maintaining its Bearcat heritage in various metropolitan areas like Buffalo and New York City. With the University’s support, these areas have become centers for alumni groups across the nation and globe, conducting numerous events and meet-ups to engage with and expand their graduate populations.
The Binghamton University Alumni Association, established in 1951, is the primary network for University alumni. According to Kim Faber, executive director of alumni engagement, the association organizes alumni into 18 regional chapters nationwide with an additional two chapters outside of the country in Seoul and Hong Kong. The association also helps alumni connect with one another through affinity groups, which enables graduates who feel a strong affiliation to a career field or student organization to form an identity as an alumni group. In total, the University has approximately 130,900 living alumni, including 6,100 graduates living internationally.
Christina Ritter, ‘99, the chair of the Alumni Association’s Washington D.C. chapter and member of the Binghamton University Alumni Board of Directors, said she works closely with alumni engagement staff to plan events, increase engagement and expand the regional chapter network.
“The D.C. chapter, like others, holds networking happy hours, attends local sporting events, invites notable alumni speakers, holds receptions with President Stenger when he is in town and coordinates other fun social outings,” Ritter said. “In the past six months, the Alumni Association has hosted over 50 alumni events to support the University’s mission of teaching, research and service, continuing the tradition of excellence and building University pride.”
Much like the D.C. chapter, the Chicago chapter hosts numerous social and networking events to engage with its approximately 700 members. The chapter’s leader, Francesca Bullerman, ‘04, a faculty assistant at Northwestern University’s law school, said maintaining connections to BU could help with the challenges of moving to a new area.
“When you move to a city without having an established network of friends, meeting people can be hard,” Bullerman said. “Having a shared experience, or in our case, our undergraduate education makes for fast friends.”
According to Natalie Murphy, ‘14, the chapter leader for the Buffalo area, the University’s support is critical in helping chapter leaders coordinate alumni events.
“The Binghamton Alumni Association empowers the chapter leaders to find venues, coordinate logistics and help spread the word for our events,” Murphy said. “The BU alumni team checks in with its chapter leaders regularly to share ideas and practices when it comes to alumni events and getting more graduates involved.”
Last winter, Murphy relaunched the Buffalo chapter with a tour of New Era Field, the home of the Buffalo Bills. Murphy was able to do this through a professional connection with David Wheat, ‘94, the chief operating officer for the NFL team.
“With his help, we hosted more than 20 alumni at New Era Stadium,” Murphy said. “We ate pizza and chicken wings in the media press box, got to see the team locker rooms and other facilities, and ended the tour by getting to walk and take pictures on the field.”
Working with the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, the Alumni Association also connects alumni with students, allowing alumni to network with students and share their experiences in their respective fields. In his quarterly report, President Stenger mentioned alumni groups and their importance in serving as advocates and mentors to current students. Stenger attended several events in California and Washington where he informed alumni of the future initiatives and projects the University will undertake.
“These national alumni events highlight the way that our University is becoming better recognized, with our graduates taking leadership roles in national and international firms,” Stenger said. “We want them to be engaged as advocates for the University and to serve as mentors, internship leaders and even as guest lecturers in classes.”
Outside of the Alumni Association, many alumni attend University sports events, host networking and career development talks and meet on weekends with one another. Jeremy Zylbert, ‘14, a social studies teacher at Oceanside High School in Oceanside, New York, hasn’t attended an official alumni meetup, but regularly sees his friends.
“I haven’t attended an official meetup because I see my BU friends plenty,” Zylbert said. “I hang out with these friends at bars in New York City all the time because we can usually get a group of us to meet up a few times a year.”
Ritter said her involvement in alumni circles has helped her stay connected with BU, network professionally and form friendships with other alumni.
“I have really enjoyed connecting with alumni in the D.C. area,” Ritter said. “Giving back to Binghamton University makes me feel good.”