Leaders of the Pack

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Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

7 min read

As 2015 draws to a close, we’re taking the opportunity to recognize YOU. Our alumni, volunteers, donors, and fans all make UConn Nation bigger, better, and stronger. Because of you, Huskies know that, no matter where they are, they can reach out to their UConn pack. We’d especially like to thank our alumni volunteers, who work year-round on game watches, brewery tours, service events, and so much more so that you can feel at home, whether you’re in Seattle or Storrs.

Here are just a few Huskies we’re thankful for this holiday season.

Theresa Hopkins-Staten, Esq. ’81 (CLAS) ’84 JD
African American Alumni Council

iun_theresa_hopkinsstatenI graduated from UConn in 1981, and at that time, the experience was not pleasant. The racial climate and tone were offensive and hostile. And while I made some lifelong friendships during my time on campus, I vowed never to return after I graduated.

Years later, I met an administrator who told me, “You have to be the change you want to see.” And that strengthened my resolve to be that change.

I became involved in reconstituting the African American Alumni Council (AAAC), which has been active for more than 15 years, and served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Some of the AAAC activities include hosting a meet-and-greet at the Alumni Center for students of color to have a conversation with us. We talk about our experiences at UConn and in our respective professions. We want to be a source of strength, inspiration and information for students.

I feel one of the AAAC’s most notable accomplishments is the establishment of an endowed scholarship. Under the leadership of our president at the time [Rosemary Tate], a very small group of people saw a need and made a commitment to address the need. Over the past several years, we’ve been blessed to award a number of scholarships to deserving students who have demonstrated both academic excellence and a commitment to service.

UConn is a different place. Working with individuals like Dr. Willena Price [Director, H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center], Mo Cotton Kelly[UConn Alumni Relations Associate Vice President] and her wonderful team in Alumni Relations, Josh Newton [UConn Foundation President & CEO] and the leadership of President [Susan] Herbst—I’ve found UConn to now be more inclusive and welcoming. I want to be a part of and have a voice in this transformation. We’re moving in the right direction, and it clearly demonstrates that institutions can change when there’s a will to do so.
Join the AAAC Facebook group

Tyler Zaccheo ’08 (NEAG)
San Francisco/Los Angeles Alumni Networking Groups

iun_tyler_zaccheoI chose to volunteer in 2009 because I saw a need for greater UConn representation on the West Coast. As I saw other alumni networks from similarly sized universities frequently holding events, I knew there was no reason why we couldn’t have success doing the same.

The success we’ve seen growing the Los Angeles network has been phenomenal and extremely rewarding. It’s been great to see the network grow from only a few people in 2009 to almost 100 gathered for the 2014 basketball championship run. We’ve also expanded and diversified activities beyond game watches to include volunteer, networking, and cultural events.

While I’ve recently relocated to San Francisco, we have another solid leadership team in place and will be looking to build off the success we saw with last month’s annual lobster dinner as we head into the basketball season. I look forward to seeing the West Coast alumni networks continue to grow and strengthen the bond with the University.

A university’s bond with alumni is vital to its future and will only broaden the reach of its academic message. The future is bright and I can’t wait to see everything unfold!

Join the Los Angeles Alumni Networking Group on Facebook
Join the San Francisco Alumni Networking Group on Facebook

Richard Soares ’97 (CLAS) ’04 (MBA)
Fairfield County Alumni Networking Group

iun_rrichard_soaresMy experience at UConn was one of growth and self-discovery. UConn helped shape me into the individual I am today. It provided me with a first-rate education and gave me the opportunity to establish lifelong friendships.

I am an alumni volunteer because I believe firmly in dedicating my free time to a cause or organization that I am truly passionate about. Being an alumnus, I find it is extremely important to give back to the UConn community and to also be an example and mentor to the next generations of alumni.

Being a volunteer has allowed me to keep in touch with fellow alumni and continue to build wonderful memories of what it truly means to be a UConn Husky. It has cemented my firm belief that UConn is a special place with wonderful people that will achieve amazing things.

My aspirations for UConn is for it to continue on its amazing path of growth and continual development as one of the leading universities, both in education as well as in social causes. I am proud to be a part of this wonderful family we call UConn.

Join the Fairfield Alumni Networking Group on Facebook

Patty Holowinko Blick ’83 (CLAS)
San Francisco Alumni Networking Group

iun_patty_blickVolunteering has led me to meet, learn from and work with other alumni and Foundation staff. I have also acquired some new talents—event planning and public speaking—all while having fun and supporting my school!

As I have been able to meet so many terrific alumni who enjoy gathering and sharing their UConn experiences, I am compelled to bring these people together. There is nothing quite like meeting a complete stranger, finding out that they lived in the same dorm that you did and leaving an event with a new friend. I am also inspired by other alumni who are dedicated UConn volunteers in the San Francisco Bay area. After leaving a UConn-related event, I am even more motivated to keep our area chapter/network alive and thriving.

My hope for our network is to be able to assist our more recent alumni and encourage them to get involved with our group and UConn, while also keeping our not-so-recent alumni involved and interested in events. By maintaining a connection to UConn, I believe that our alumni network members will want to continue to support our school by volunteering, mentoring young alumni and contributing financially. It takes all of us working together to make a stronger UConn.
Join the San Francisco Alumni Networking Group on Facebook

Samantha Odyniec ’10 (CLAS)
Chicago Alumni Networking Group

iun_samantha_odyniecI’m from Chicago, and I went to UConn not knowing anyone when I arrived. I made instant friends and truly felt like I belonged at the University. I graduated from UConn knowing that the school helped me grow into a smarter, more mature, and more well-rounded person from the young, eager and hopeful student I was when I started.

I started volunteering with the Chicago Alumni Network in spring 2012 and, even though I didn’t know anyone there, I was again immediately taken in as part of the group. Our group is so dynamic—most of us don’t have the same career, weren’t in the same academic programs, and didn’t graduate in the same years; however, we all connect because of our passion for all things UConn.

As a group, we have volunteered with the Chicago Park District and Greater Chicago Food Depository. We’ve also held book clubs, brewery tours, and even the occasional game watch. Not surprisingly, game watches are a lot more enjoyable with fellow UConn fans instead of the usual B1G fans in this area!

I would love to see UConn become more of a household name throughout the country. The university undoubtedly deserves recognition for both its academics and athletics, and I think it’s time that such recognition comes to fruition. Ultimately, I’d like to see its reputation expand to the point where young kids across the nation dream about attending UConn.

Join the Chicago Alumni Networking Group on Facebook

Pete Powers ’70 (CLAS) ’77 (NEAG)
Southeast Connecticut Alumni Networking Group

iun_pete_powersI attended the UConn Hartford branch for two years and then transferred to Storrs, joining a fraternity, and getting involved in student government. I have so many great memories of those two years in Storrs, and I made many lifelong friends. After four years in the Navy, I returned to UConn and received a master’s degree in higher education administration.

About six years ago, I went to a Southeast Connecticut Alumni Chapter event—a scholarship fundraising dinner with Geno Auriemma. After talking with some of the alumni volunteers there and learning about the programs they sponsor, I decided to join.

We’re a dedicated and hard-working group, and we enjoy planning and organizing events for alumni in Southeastern Connecticut. We take advantage of all the shoreline area has to offer, from river cruises and lighthouse tours from the Avery Point campus to local brewery and vineyard samplings. We also feel it’s important to give back to the communities we live in, and have sponsored a number of community service events, such as cleaning up local parks and beaches, and organizing book drives for local service organizations. Over the years, we have also raised thousands of dollars for scholarships to students attending the Avery point campus.

Personally, I believe UConn is on the right path. They continue to be one of the top state flagship universities. As an alum you’re proud to see them in the news—not only for athletics, but for the initiatives to grow and improve the academic experience. I’m proud to be a member of our Southeast Network and to engage alumni in our area.

Jonathan at an event in Hartford CT
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