Big City, Big Oppourtunities

By Dalita Balassanian, AB’01, Co-Vice President of the Alumni Club of New York

The University of Chicago is my muse. Sure, a university is not a muse in the conventional sense, but it would be a boring world if we put definitions on what should or should not inspire us. UChicago inspired me from the first day I stepped onto the quads, and I want others to be inspired too. I also want to continue being inspired by the UChicago community and the impressive depth of its alumni base.
As alumni, we have a great opportunity to inspire new generations and re-energize and engage with past generations. If you are able to do both, then both tasks nurture each other in a wonderful, cyclical way. Our school motto is translated as “let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched,” and I hope as alumni we can continue enriching both our lives and society as a whole.
It is vital to remember that the core strength of any university is not in the courses it offers, its libraries, or its science labs, but in its people. UChicago cultivates its students to graduate and make valuable contributions to society. It’s crucial for us to inspire and nurture young people who will one day be leaders in the world in their disciplines.
It is of the utmost importance to get alumni involved with our community so that they can have opportunities to engage with prospective and current students while at the same time committing resources when possible. This ensures that the University continues to be one of the premier academic institutions in the world.
As a member of a regional club’s board, I know our alumni are very busy and have a multitude of non work-related engagements and invitations at their disposal, so our alumni events have to stand out in order for a busy banker, mother, artist, etc., to make the time to participate.
In New York, we organize events for alumni in all different affinity areas, ranging from academic discussions to athletic events, lectures, wine tastings, and so on, in order to appeal to the interests of the broad alumni community. Of course, we constantly remind ourselves that New York City offers distinguished lectures every night of the week, of which UChicago faculty lectures are only a fraction, but our alumni specifically come to the lectures organized by our alumni club because—get ready for this—we like each other!
As members of the New York alumni club, we have repeatedly discovered that the best events are the ones that strike a balance between intellectual enrichment and dialogue among the alumni participants. It is always clear that the alumni community wants to reconnect with each other, build long-lasting relationships, and widen their professional and personal networks. The Alumni Club of New York is happy to facilitate such interactions so the UChicago spirit continues past graduation.
The New York Club is increasingly using a three-pronged approach to getting alumni more involved with the alumni community, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of the University.
First, we encourage alumni to come to the events where there will be socializing with other alumni, including members of the Alumni Club. We really want everyone to get to know each other so that people have the chance to reconnect with fellow alumni and begin building relationships.
Once alumni are excited about getting more involved with the alumni community, we invite them to programming committee meetings. The programming committee is the team that organizes events for the Alumni Club and offers a low-key way of getting alumni more involved without the full responsibility of organizing an event.
Finally, we ask whether they want to organize or co-organize an alumni event. Hopefully they say yes, but even if they don’t, they are now involved with the alumni community and excited about engaging with prospective and current students and networking with the broader alumni population. For those alumni who want to continue organizing events and perhaps take a leadership role, we encourage them to consider a position on the New York Club’s Alumni Board, which oversees all of the programming and administration for the team.
In closing, I hope alumni will remember the tremendous opportunity we have to inspire new generations and re-energize and engage with past generations, for both the benefit of the University and the immense contributions we can make to society if we connect and collaborate with each other.