Alumni Association aims to increase engagement, provide scholarships
The Alumni Association is one of the University’s token communities serving the student body with its more than 300,000 alumni.
The association has been active since 1940 and started as a support organization for the University. In 2013 the association joined with UH furthering its commitment to the University.
Mike Pede, Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations, gives an overview of the association’s web of networks, goals and experiences that have become key for student engagement.
“The Alumni Association has been serving the University for over 80 years,” Pede said. “And in 2013 we merged into the University and became what’s called an interdependent Alumni Association, where the foundation remains in place and we also all became University employees and the Alumni Relations programming is now under the University’s auspices.”
Pede explained that there are three models within the association, the country-only dependent, the dependent, or ones who put on events, and the interdependent, or ones who also oversee the endowments.
A wide variety of alumni groups at UH serve under the association’s umbrella. Some groups identify with certain demographics, colleges on campus and geographic locations so every alumnus or alumna can find an affinity that they want to fit into.
“Our number one goal in alumni relations is alumni engagement,” Pede said. “And alumni engagement doesn’t always mean philanthropy. So there are four buckets to engagement. There are four ways we try to get our alumnus and alumna to participate.”
The first way Pede describes is volunteering their time or serving on the volunteering board. The second way is by attending Alumni Association and its constituents’ events. The third way is through communication on social platforms and the fourth is by making a gift to the University.
“We have over 275,000 living alumni, 185,000 of those live in the greater Houston area,” Pede said. “So in Houston, one out of every six college graduates is a Cougar. Our goal is to figure out a way to get those 185,000 in Houston somewhere, as it’s important to them, in one of those spaces where they’re engaged with the University.”
Pede shared his undergraduate experience shaping his relationship with the University and why he became a part of the association.
Pede arrived at UH in 1984 as a Hilton College student and became involved with multiple organizations and events on campus. He became a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, a part of the group that restarted Frontier Fiesta in 1991 and was the mascot from 1987-88.
“Well, back when I was an undergrad I worked in the athletic department, and I got a little insight into what it would take to work at a university and I worked in athletics there until 1993,” Pede said. “This opportunity presented itself and loving my alma mater and enjoying working on a campus, I jumped at the opportunity to come back.”
Drue DaSilva, former president of the Alumni Association, reflects on her time at the University and her involvement in the association is a cornerstone of her life during her two-year term as president.
“I am so proud of the growth of programs on campus,” DaSilva said. “UH’s mindset has moved to be a university where we cultivate relationships with students and alumni. We understand that the relationship needs to be nurtured from day one as a student through graduation and beyond.”
DaSilva, a 1993 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, has attained many volunteering roles while “watching UH change and improve” through the years. From her roles in Chi Omega sorority, O-Team and Metropolitan Volunteer Program, she understood that there is a need for help and involvement on campus and around the community.
“It just seemed like my natural progression from my undergrad days to join the Alumni Association,” DaSilva said. “I’ve been a longtime volunteer with several organizations, several constituent groups and am fortunate to be a part of the Alumni Association Foundation board.”
Another way the association gives back to campus is through scholarships and awards. Scholarships are available at the Alumni Association through various affinity groups. There are legacy scholarships that award five or six applicants a year as well as awards per college at UH.
There are awards for students wanting a class ring on top of the association working with vendors to make the rings a bit more affordable.
The association has approached its involvement with a ‘don’t wait until graduation’ mindset, focusing on student engagement and making its presence and resources known to current students through events or programming.
“University of Houston graduates know how great the University is,” Pede said. “And what we need to do is take that message to the world by utilizing our alumni base and the success of the alumni to tell future students why you want to go to school at the University and what it can do for you.”