On the Quest for Greater Diversity
During the past year the Northwestern Alumni Association has established two national clubs to extend its reach to more alumni.
NU-A5, the Northwestern University Asian and Asian American Alumni club, and NUGALA, the Northwestern University Gay and Lesbian Alumni club, join NUBAA, the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association, and LANU, the Latino Alumni of Northwestern University, in providing social, cultural and career networking opportunities to alumni and students.
Following the Homecoming parade on the Evanston campus, more than 150 alumni and friends gathered at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art for NUGALA’s Homecoming reception. Amid the multimedia art and architecture exhibits, members reminisced about their University days and met alumni and students from various classes. Though gay and lesbian alumni Homecoming parties have been held in previous years, Charles Katzenmeyer (WCAS85, KSM89), NUGALA Homecoming chair, says establishing the gay alumni club was an important step in making the University community more inclusive.
“It’s critical for all alumni to feel they have a place at the University,” he says. “Many of our members weren’t ‘out’ [openly gay] in college, and once they were, they didn’t know how they’d be received.”
When activity toward NUGALA’s formation began last spring, club president Todd Henneman (J93) of Los Angeles worked with the Northwestern Alumni Association to form a steering committee and survey potential members to learn how they’d like to participate. The survey showed alumni wanted to network with fellow alumni and students, attend educational and career development events and support Northwestern as mentors and advisers.
“Those who responded ran the gamut of the University in terms of age, school and geography,” Henneman says, “and they shared a lot of sentimental stories about their experiences at Northwestern. But the common theme in their messages was ‘This is the right time for a club like this.’”
In addition to connecting with Chicago-area alumni, NUGALA plans to host events on the East and West Coasts and to develop the club’s online presence so members can participate in the communities in which they live.
As for NU-A5, an NAA survey of Asian and Asian American alumni revealed large populations in the Chicago area and on the West Coast. Respondents identified career networking, community service and social and cultural events as their top priorities.
On the Monday following Homecoming/reunion weekend, the club hosted its first campus event, a career networking night. The featured speaker was Paul Igasaki (WCAS76), a 2001 NAA Merit Award winner and former vice chair of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Two weeks later NU-A5 members on the West Coast enjoyed a wine-tasting event at the Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino, Calif. In California the club also plans to tour the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco in the spring, while in Chicago members will organize a Taste of Evanston event in May.
“We have the potential to become a truly national and international organization,” says NU-A5 cochair Kathryn Mlsna (WCAS74, L77). “We’re eager to identify alumni in various cities because the development of our organization depends on the energies of alumni around the country.”
In the meantime, NUBAA and LANU events and diversity initiatives continue to connect African American and Latino alumni with Northwestern. NUBAA drew nearly 300 alumni and friends to its “Back to the Shack” Homecoming party at HotHouse, a performance center in Chicago’s Loop. Members are also working to raise money to endow the Leon Forrest Chair of African American Studies (Northwestern, winter 2001) and to fund the Gardner/Exum Scholarship for African American students.
LANU members are also establishing an endowment for undergraduate scholarships. LANU is set to join students from the Alianza organization in April for the Latino Juniors/Graduating Seniors Reception; members of both groups are planning to attend Comedy Beat Down, an Alianza-sponsored performance.
For information about these clubs, visit www.alumni.northwestern.edu/clubs and follow the links to national clubs.