by Kat Riddler, Managing Editor

The passion to be involved continues to burn bright and was celebrated at the second annual Alumni Association conference. On August 26, alumni of the University of Missouri-St. Louis gathered in the Millennium Student Center’s Century Rooms from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the second annual IGNITE! Conference.

IGNITE! is geared towards UMSL alumni volunteers, Alumni Association leaders, and affinity organizations. The event was free for all UMSL Alumni Association members and included a continental breakfast, conference materials, lunch, and admission to the alumni networking reception.

Alumni Association President Stacy McMurray, BSBA 1990, explained in her welcome letter, “With a global population of more than 96,000 alumni strong, this conference has been designed to provide relevant and thought-provoking ideas that help our alumni volunteers thrive in their roles as ambassadors for UMSL.”

Joe Blanner, BSPA 1998, vice president of the Alumni Association and IGNITE! 2017 Conference Chair, said “In putting on the conference, our hope and intention was to encourage and equip UMSL alumni for a lifetime of volunteer service: service to the University and service within their community… Attendees should have had a lot to take away. I know I did.”

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The panel discussion of four different alumni affinity organizations moderated by Joe Blanner. Photo Courtesy of the UMSL Alumni Association.

Blanner worked with a committee of six alumni individuals to put together the conference. “The Committee was strategic in the speakers and topics presented. The first segment was on why volunteer service matters. In other words, why should alumni serve? The second portion included a panel discussion of four different alumni affinity organizations that had successfully engaged alumni through collaborative partnerships with community groups, student groups, and faculty and University departments in conducting events. The final segment was on building career equity through volunteer service. The overall message of this segment was that alumni should be serving for the benefit of the community and for their own professional development and career advancement,” Banner explained.

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A look at the room of the Alumni INGITE! Conference. Photo Courtesy of the UMSL Alumni Association.

The keynote speaker was a Bachelor of Science alumnus of 1997, Erin Budde, vice president of strategic giving and innovation for the United Way of Greater St. Louis. In her position, she is responsible for developing the tools, process and implementation of new investment, and engagement opportunities for donors and volunteers. Prior to her current position, Budde worked at stl250, Wells Fargo Advisors, and Gateway Center for Giving. Budde serves on the boards of FOCUS St. Louis and stl250. She has been named on the St. Louis Business Journal’s list of Most Influential St. Louisans and is a graduate of the Leadership St. Louis Class of 2010.

Additional Speakers were Stacy McMurray, BSBA 1990, president of the Alumni Association, who welcomed everyone to the conference and gave closing remarks; Blanner with his session “Leading Through Collaboration and Partnership;” and Jan Torrisi-Mokwa, BA 1982, with her session “Building Career Equity.”

After the second session by Torrisi-Mokwa, three Volunteer Service Awards were given. The Alumni Engagement Project of the year was given to the 7th Annual Honors College Trivia Night & Silent Auction. Dean of the Pierre Laclede Honors College Dan Gerth said, “The core alumni leadership team has expanded their activities substantially – adding, for example, sponsorship of our graduation party last May and the Brain Stew anniversary party last November, and they are hard at work on a calendar of events for this year. I’m looking forward to another terrific year of alumni activities.”

Holly Pope, member of the alumni leadership team said, “We are extremely grateful to the alumni association for recognizing our hard work and dedication. This award sets the bar for future trivia nights. We’re happy to contribute to current honors students through scholarship support as well as adding new alumni events and networking opportunities using the tools we learned at the IGNITE! Conference over the past two years.”

The Alumni Engagement Project of the year was given to the 7th Annual Honors College Trivia Night & Silent Auction. Photo Courtesy of the UMSL Alumni Association.

The Alumni Affinity Organization of the Year was the African American Alumni Chapter. The alumni chapter President Linda Brown Reed, BA 1976, and Chief Diversity Officer Deborah Burris spoke earlier in the conference on the panel discussion about their collaboration for African American students to have a more personalized graduation and welcome to the alumni association chapter. The graduation, held last May in the Century Rooms of the MSC, allowed students to step up to the microphone and tell their journey to graduation. This event has a long history and has grown in popularity over the years.

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The Alumni Affinity Organization of the Year was the African American Alumni Chapter. Photo Courtesy of the UMSL Alumni Association.

The Volunteer of the Year was Patrick Gadell, BA 1973. Gadell attended the all day conference last year and enjoyed the shorter conference this year. Gadell said, “Volunteering for the Alumni Association for the past six years has been very rewarding. It’s a great way to meet some incredible people. UMSL’s strength is its diversity. We have a large Alumni talent pool, and since abandoning dues and becoming all-inclusive in 2015, the Governing Board and Officers who have stepped up are an incredible group.  

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The Volunteer of the Year was Patrick Gadell, BA 1973. Photo Courtesy of the UMSL Alumni Association.

Gadell continued, “We improve every year and are beginning to do more on campus, including funding scholarships, as well as in the larger community. I urge Alums who have never been engaged to consider it. It’s been a lot of fun while extremely rewarding to give back by helping those who are following in our footsteps to become tomorrow’s leaders.”