Once university graduates cross the stage for their degree, they complete one chapter of their college experience and begin another as alumni.
It can be daunting for students wanting to be involved in large-scale efforts, such as the Alumni Council, which can seem unattainable to a fresh graduate.
“We were seeing there was a big gap between those that just recently graduated and that Alumni Council,” Young Alumni Council President Giang Petroviak said.
The Young Alumni Council was formed to offer an option to young alumni wanting to be involved.
Petroviak was graduating when the council was formed in 2014, but since she began her involvement she has steadily moved up the ranks. Before her presidency in the organization, she served as a general member, chair of the committee, secretary and then vice president.
As president, she has been working toward the long-standing mission of the organization to get younger alumni engaged and connected to the university.
“Historically, you'll see more of the older alumni go to those things,” Petroviak said. “We’re trying to get that young alumni population more involved with Ball State right as they're graduating.”
Nearing its 10th year, the current council is looking to create more young alumni-centered events. Specifically, they want to create events that help younger alumni transition into post-graduate life.
“When I bought my first house, I had no idea how to navigate that process,” Petroviak said. “We want to be having those big, hot-button topics that we can help the alumni with.”
Other members of the council, such as Kinsey Reese, Ball State Undergraduate Admissions’ social media strategist, said there are plans to build connections between young alumni and current students as well.
“We would like to find a way to connect with students more and hear their voices so we can better connect with them and better serve them as young alumni,” Reese said.
Unlike the Alumni Council, there are often recent graduates on the Young Alumni Council who utilize the freshness of their post-graduation life to relate to current students. One of the council’s efforts to connect is through its Young Alumni Council Student Leadership Scholarship and mentorship with the Top 100 program, where a student named as a part of the Top 100 is paired with an alumni mentor.
“They try to match us with someone who has common interests, or maybe it was the major that we had in undergrad,” Petroviak said. “For a year, we're paired with that student just to connect, see how they're doing and how we can help them navigate the workforce or the final few years of college.”
Beyond the outward involvement of the council, there is also an internal culture of improvement and support.
According to its website, the Young Alumni Council includes alumni who graduated in the last 15 years.
As a result, there is a variety of experiences in the council with a wide range of ages present. Petroviak, a 2014 graduate, recalled a meeting where an icebreaker game with pennies–A Penny for your Thoughts—made the difference apparent.
The game involved passing out a penny to each person, who then said a memory from the year inscripted.
“The person that sat next to me was sharing the year that she had like ‘I was in eighth grade during this year’ and I’m like ‘I was in college when you were in eighth grade,’” Petroviak said.
Instead of separating them, Petroviak said the differences seem to fuel their bond over a shared love of the council. She said she also enjoys the experience of meeting alumni from the last 15 years, whom she would not have had the chance to meet otherwise.
Echoing Petroviak, Reese said the span of graduation years allows for a variety of experiences that complement each other and improve the council as a whole. She also mentioned a type of mentoring between the older and younger alumni within the council itself.
“It really is helpful because you have some internal mentoring, people who have been in the field for a long time mentor some of our younger young alumni.,” Reese said. “We have older alums who are professionals and have a lot of experience out of college, and then we have younger alums who have that really close connection to the student body.”
Reese herself is on the younger portion of the council, graduating undergrad in 2021 and is currently working on her master’s degree. She is not quite the youngest alumni as others such as Ethan Davies, who just graduated in May.
Davies came to the council after being convinced by a fellow council member, Kelly Osceola, who was involved in events like homecoming, where Davies previously sat on the Homecoming Steering Committee board as the Special Events Chair. It was a conversation with Osceola that made Davies become involved with the Young Alumni Council.
“She's like, ‘Hey, Ethan. I see how much you have love for this university. Let me tell you a little bit more,’” Davies said. “We were sitting in the football stadium. She was telling me about this while we're watching a game and I said, ‘Okay, I'm gonna go fill in the application tomorrow night.’”
He said he received notice of his acceptance in a letter during the summer and remembers the excitement of the moment.
“It was midnight, my phone rang and I was like, ‘Oh my god,’” Davies said. “I didn't fall asleep that same night, I was so excited.”
To Davies, working with the university was a long-term goal.
“I knew that throughout my time as I went to undergrad, I really wanted to work with university after,” Davies said. “I know when I have kids one day or have a family, it'll be cool to be like, ‘Ethan's working with university still.’”
Time in the Young Alumni Council can also be a stepping stone toward later pursuits, such as involvement in the Alumni Council, which is the future goal of Patroviak, who also serves her regional alumni branch.
The low time commitment of the council allows for those involved to pursue a connection to the university while still maintaining their postgraduate lives. Council members are required to attend two in-person meetings and two Zoom meetings a year as well as serve on one of the five committees of the council.
“I get home and I'll spend a good chunk of my time just sharing the articles and news within Ball State; on top of that, just working with the council, text messaging people in the council, whatever it may be,” Davies said. “It's something that I've learned to discipline myself, but it's a fun discipline because I've always wanted to be in this position.”
There are outreach-focused committees such as Beneficence — the “giving back committee" — and Communications, managing social media and other public relations-type communications.
Other committees revolve around engagement with alumni, including Signature Events, assisting with events such as Cocktails for Cardinals; Student Engagement, working with current students; and Young Alumni engagement, working with the younger alumni base.
While the Young Alumni Council is not currently accepting applications, those interested can apply on its website and their application will remain active for three years whenever positions open up.
Those who choose to get involved can foster a connection with their alma mater long after they leave its halls.
“It really serves as a great bridge for people who are leaving Ball State but don't feel quite ready to leave,” Reese said. “I really love being a part of that with people who are also alumni who love Ball State as much as I do.”
Contact Abigail Denault with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.