Badgers Helping Badgers

Alumni are networking around careers, diverse communities, and global connections.


Paula Bonner, UW Regent Eve Hall, and John Daniels MS’72 attended an African American alumni leadership meeting in Milwaukee in April. It was one of several meetings scheduled around the country to pull alumni constituencies together. Pang Yang Her, New Moon Productions.

Scoring a business card from a well-placed Badger is always a win. But for students launching careers in the era of Skype and LinkedIn, the prize can come from following sage advice: Go to class. That’s where some alumni are realizing a long-awaited opportunity to help students prepare for careers and build networks: they’re sharing their experiences and advice in special new classes created by the College of Letters & Science (L&S).

“Alumni wish that, when they were students, they had had some- one like that in their lives,” says David Nelson MA’07, PhD’13. As WAA’s director of alumni career networks and professional resources, he sees just 20 percent of students building alumni networks on their own. “For the rest, they’re trying to succeed in school, support themselves, and enjoy being a Badger. We’ve got to bring alumni to where they are. That’s why we are supporting L&S Career Initiative programs such as the Second Year Career Course and Career Kickstart, which will bring these discussions into residential living.”

It’s just one of the ways that the association is reinvigorating the connections that UW-Madison grads find most meaningful — including career networking, recognizing the value of diversity and inclusion, and advancing the university’s scholarship and reputation through international alumni influence.

“We want to make it possible for more alumni to say how they want to help, and to create even more opportunities where we so often see Badgers helping Badgers,” says Paula Bonner MS’78, WAA’s president and chief alumni officer.

It’s part of WAA’s role to understand what’s important to alumni in their own lives and work, and how they want to connect back to the UW, says Tracy Williams-Maclin, the association’s director of diversity and inclusion. She’s partnering with graduates — such as African American business leaders and policymakers in Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Atlanta; leaders across the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community; and alumni of the Ho-Chunk Nation — who are giving their time to recharge student scholarship programs, recognize peer accomplishments, and lend their considerable influence to support the UW’s priorities.

“These connections are inspiring fellow alumni to become involved, encouraging our organization to diversify from within, and ultimately, sharing the message that these alumni matter,” says Williams-Maclin.

There’s great promise in similar interest among the 15,000 alumni who live abroad, says Lora Klenke ’94, WAA’s director of international alumni relations. She points to strong Badger networks in economic centers such as London and Paris — as well as across Japan, China, and Korea — to demonstrate the importance of the UW’s work to cultivate a “global mindset” among new grads.

In February, Wisconsin’s strengths in the global marketplace were clear when a state trade mission included a stop to seek counsel from alumni in London.

“The economic influence of the University of Wisconsin and its alumni is difficult to quantify,” says Genevieve Waldron ’03, cochair of the WAA: UK Chapter. “I’m proud to be associated with an institution that fosters learning, jobs, and research in my home state and around the world.”

Published in the Summer 2015 issue


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