By Caitlin Graveson ’11

Members of the Black Alumni Chapter are focusing on assisting students instead of merely keeping connections strong among Saint Mary’s graduates.

“The goal is to support students; it’s a unique group,” says Chris Carter ’97, interim alumni director. Carter notes that many black alumni faced challenges in college when Saint Mary’s was not as diverse as it is today, and they want to help current students succeed.

“They can show students, ‘We did it, so you can do it too,’ “ Carter says. Halima Marshall ’96, who was integral in formalizing the chapter, was active in the Black Student Union as a student and says she has remained involved on campus since she was an undergraduate.

“I never really stopped from BSU. After BSU and graduation, I went back and connected with old alumni to work on creating the black graduation ceremony,” Marshall says.

Rushell Gordon ’96, who is on the alumni board of directors, says chapter members also developed a scholarship for students. “It is easier when the group is more formal because the scholarship falls under the chapter. It is easier to raise funds.”

Supporting and building relationships with students is written into chapter’s charter: “To preserve and promote the history and culture of black alumni and students at Saint Mary’s College.”

The Black Alumni Chapter’s first step for working with the BSU is to bridge the generation and communication gap with the students, Mashall says.

“We want to give support and would like to give support for what the students really need. We have to figure out what they need, not just offer help on things we think they need.”

Sophomore Remy Lewis-Smith, treasurer of the BSU, says the group invites the Black Alumni Chapter to events and sends a representative to the chapter’s meetings.

“We are attempting to build a solid relationship between the alumni and current students of the African American community,” Lewis-Smith says. “The relationship provides our students with networking opportunities that continue after completion of college. We hope to strengthen our bond by working together as an inclusive and strong community.”

The Black Alumni Chapter plans events around the SMC calendar to further coordinate with students. In early fall 2009, they hosted a mixer with the BSU. They then worked with the BSU to organize something for Black History Month in February. In May, the black graduation ceremony will be held, and over the summer the chapter plans to host an alumni event to welcome new alums and introduce them to the chapter.

Marshall says students are always looking to get more alumni involved on campus.

“When we are thinking about fundraising and supporting initiatives, a greater pool of funds and greater pool of energy can make things happen. I want to encourage fellow alums to come and support the venture.”

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