If you asked Anna (Willemse) Cleaver, BESc’05, what she wants her legacy as the president of the Western Engineering Alumni Society to be, her answer would be fostering long-term connections between alumni and current students.
While students may spend four years as undergraduates, they spend the bulk of their lives as University of Western Ontario alumni, Cleaver points out. It is helpful to have role models sharing their experiences and drawing connections with students who are walking similar career paths.
“I think it is important for students to be exposed to the kinds of successes alumni have, to help them dream big and expose them to the opportunities,” says Cleaver, a project manager and process wastewater engineer for London, Ont.-based Stantec.
“If we can connect students with alumni, we can ensure the Western Engineering undergraduate experience maintains its reputation as a great experience and will continue to produce great alumni.”
Cleaver was looking for ways to sustain the feeling of camaraderie she developed during her formative years as an undergraduate. Like many of her fellow alumni, she was seeking ways to volunteer and give back to her alma mater.
As an undergraduate student, Cleaver served as the first vice-president, social, for Women in Engineering. She also held various posts in the Undergraduate Engineering Society, including serving as president in her final year.
Former Western Engineering Alumni Society president Joel Adams, BESc ’00, HBA ’00, approached Cleaver and encouraged her to take the reins. In a somewhat cavalier fashion, Cleaver agreed and was appointed president in January 2011.
“Joel said I would enjoy it. So, on advice from him I just blindly stepped into it,” she says.
With a year under her belt, she is getting ready to ramp up her profile and increase the visibility of the alumni society on- and off-campus.
“It’s my intention to create an alumni society that people are excited about, that make people want to attend (events),” she says. “I’m just trying to create an opportunity for people to connect with people with similar interests.”
An alumni society is about more than philanthropy, she continues. It is about making connections with current undergraduate students and giving back to the university.
If students become involved in the Western Engineering Alumni Society early on and meet active members, they will be more likely to maintain this relationship after they graduate, Cleaver explains. “It is a lot easier to maintain connections than to make connections. It keeps your options and opportunities open,” she says.
Cleaver is working to develop small networks of Western Engineering alumni to help facilitate and grow alumni groups and to increase attendance at events.
Recognizing it is an uphill climb to increase participation in the alumni society, Cleaver is eager to tackle the challenge as she sees rewards for both alumni and current students in staying connected.
“Whether or not I was an alumni president, I was going to be on campus and try to meet and talk to students, and offer any help or assistance that I can. This is just a formal way to do what I would be doing anyway.”
It is important for engineers to maintain a public presence to help increase awareness about the role of engineering in society, she explains. The Western Engineering Alumni Society is a perfect way to get engineers involved in their communities and to help maintain and improve the undergraduate experience, she says.
“I like talking to people and I like meeting people. There are a lot of fantastic people at the Western Engineering undergraduate level and I can only assume that all those people who graduated are still awesome people,” she says, adding she would love to get people from a range of graduating classes involved in the alumni society.
The Western Engineering Alumni Society was established in 2003. With more than 9,803 alumni, the society is working to keep graduates informed and involved in Western Engineering.
Read the complete story: Engineering News
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