Sarah Murphy '10 volunteers during a campus beautification project at Alumni Reunion Weekend 2019. To get involved as an alumni volunteer, visit www.alumni.mcla.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org. During National Volunteer Month, the Alumni Association will be recognizing volunteers on social media. Follow MCLA on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
Between semesters at MCLA, Patrice Dwyer ’83 and her friends would write one another letters. “I developed some amazing friendships when I was there,” she said.
Dwyer kept those letters, and many years after she graduated, encountered a box in her attic full of friendly sentiments that reminded her of her time as a student. Looking through that box inspired Dwyer to reach out to the MCLA Alumni Office, which ended up with her spending the last decade as an alumni volunteer, including as class agent for 1983.
“The Alumni Office was like, ‘come up and visit,’” she said. “Once I came up, that was it! I was hooked!”
Hundreds of MCLA alumni have similar stories about volunteering for their alma mater. Some want to stay connected because college was such a formative experience; some want to pay forward the connections they made on campus, which led to life-defining careers and marriages. Some just want to lend their expertise.
Whatever their motivation, their numbers are growing: According to Kate Gigliotti, MCLA’s senior director of constituent engagement, 2020 was a record-breaking year for alumni volunteers. In the 2020-21 academic year, 440 alumni volunteered their time, spending 2,650 hours helping with programs that support students and recent graduates, plus 1,250 hours spent volunteering through alumni leadership roles, including the Alumni Association Board of Directors and other alumni boards and committees.
“We love to see new alumni volunteers and find opportunities for them that match their interests,” said Gigliotti. “Every MCLA alum has valuable perspective to offer current students, recent graduates, and the College in general.”
“I got so much out of my four years there, and understand the school’s mission well enough to know that for those of us who have succeeded, we have an obligation to look back and pull more people up,” said Dennis Ducharme ’82, president of the MCLA Alumni Association Board of Directors. “Many of our students come from less than privileged backgrounds, with parents who may not be fully supportive of their efforts. Volunteering tells them someone cares. Knowing someone cares is a great motivator and usually results in an effort to succeed at some level that validates the care given.”
Volunteer opportunities can be long-term projects or simple tasks, like appearing on a career panel or writing letters to current students. Dominique McCoy ’13, who lives in Malden, Mass., appeared on a virtual panel of alumni in social work careers earlier this year. “I remember how nerve-wracking it was for me when I first started exploring potential careers after graduating,” she said. “I wish I had the opportunity to hear from people who were successful in their social work journeys. I loved being able to give back to a community that has helped me grow personally and professionally.”
Lucas McDiarmid ’15 majored in political science and public policy at MCLA, which led to a career in politics; he’s currently district director for Massachusetts State Senator Anne Gobi. He’s volunteered as a mentor for a new pilot program that matches alumni and incoming students, and took time to write notes to current students this year.
“When I was an undergraduate, I was always grateful for the networking opportunities and the willingness of alumni to help me out,” he said. “My experience at MCLA helped frame who I am today. If I can have a fraction of that positive impact for another student, I’ll be happy.”
McDiarmid said he tried to keep his notes casual, offering some well wishes during a tough year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic—but also included his business card so students could reach out if need be. “Alumni are a great resource for students,” he said. “Networking is crucial for internships, and in the professional world, after leaving MCLA, I never met an alumnus that was unwilling to connect with me, or to serve as a connector.”
As class agent for ’83, Dwyer agrees—she regularly reaches out to the rest of her class and makes connections, sets up meetings, encourages alumni to attend reunion or to support students and faculty at in-person and virtual academic events, and more. “It’s an experience that shaped me as a person,” she said. “I don’t know what it is about that school. The connections, the quality of people I met—I never forgot it. The school gave so much to me. I feel like it’s important to give back.”