First Multicultural Alumni Reception Connects Graduates with Students

multicultural party

Elina Zhang ’16 reporting on the first Multicultural Alumni Reception

During this past weekend’s Homecoming, Bowdoin hosted its first Multicultural Alumni Reception, inviting both alumni and students. The party, at 30 College Street, was put on by the Center for Multicultural Life and the Alumni Council.

Students from across campus came to chat with alumni who could share stories that might reflect their own college experiences. “I’m hoping to meet new people, and ask about their experiences as multicultural students at Bowdoin,” Son Ngo ’15 said.

Benjamin Harris, director of the Student Center for Multicultural Life, kicked off the event by introducing himself and explaining that he wanted to give students more opportunities to network with alumni. “This is the first of many multicultural alumni receptions,” he promised. Harris joined Bowdoin in August 2015 from the University of Delaware, where he spent the last five years as the assistant director of the Center for Black Culture.

Harris also acknowledged a special guest in the room. “Shout out to newly inaugurated President Clayton Rose for coming,” he said. “Both Clayton and I are newbies so we both can still use the excuse, ‘I didn’t know, it’s my first year.'”

Rose spoke about the Multicultural Center and its potential, as well as Bowdoin’s potential. “It’s exciting to know that every year alumni will be more and more diverse,” he said. He encouraged students to take advantage of alumni, emphasizing how many Bowdoin graduates are committed to helping students get jobs.

Many alumni said they had returned to Bowdoin to participate in Rose’s inauguration. “I came for Clayton’s inauguration, and to see the panels, specifically the second panel,” Emery Ahoua ’14 said, referring to last Friday’s symposium, The Power of the Liberal Arts, which included two panels made up of Bowdoin alumni.

“I felt really empowered to see that an African American CEO of a prestigious company came out of Bowdoin,” Ahoua continued. Kenneth I. Chenault ’73, H’96, CEO and chairman of American Express, was part of the second panel on “Making a Living and Making a Life: The Liberal Arts in Commerce and Citizenship,” along with Ruthie Davis ’84, president and designer of Ruthie Davis; Shelley Hearne ’83, visiting professor of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and George J. Mitchell ’54, H’83, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader.

Ahoua added that he also appreciated Mitchell’s reassurance that students don’t need to be completely confident when they leave Bowdoin. “It’s about being open to new opportunities and knowing you’ll figure it out,” Ahoua recapped the message.

A number of alumni, all former members of the a cappella group Ursus Verses, gathered together to catch up. “I’m feeling sadness about no longer being here. It’s weird because I just graduated last May and it feels the same but different,” said Golden Owens ’15. The Ursus Verses alumni revisited the familiar spaces they occupied during their Bowdoin career, including the chapel where they had some performances.

A few alumni offered wisdom for current students: “Take as many classes as possible,” advised Peter Murphy ’12. Malik McKnight ’15 reminded students to “take whatever they want out of Bowdoin and to not be afraid of asking questions.”

Kayla Baker ’09 is part of the Alumni Council’s Diversity Committee, a group that works toward increasing diversity in alumni programming. Her advice to current students is to recognize that their first job out of college is most likely not going to be their last job. “Think in short 18-month increments and think about what’s the next interesting thing you can do,” Baker said. “Follow your gut when making decisions. This will become apparent after your first and second jobs.”

Kate O’Grady, assistant director of alumni relations, is also a part of the Diversity Committee that organized the event. “We want to make Bowdoin’s multicultural alumni network more visible,” she said. “This event was a direct result of the Alumni Council Diversity Committee’s efforts to celebrate all aspects of Bowdoin.” She encouraged students to take advantage of other alumni events, including Connections in January 2016, an event in six cities — San Francisco, Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago and Portland, Maine. ” According to Career Planning, a large percentage of jobs for seniors come from Bowdoin connections.

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