Ask a group of Miami University alumni about their college years, and it is almost universal to hear the term ‘Miami Experience.’ But ask each of them about their individual ‘Miami Experience,’ and their answers will be anything but universal.
The ‘Miami Experience’ is as unique as the individuals who live it, and while a number of factors help support Miami’s well-rounded learning environment, individuals are most commonly shaped by those who surround them. These groups are connected by common academic pursuits, interests outside of class, shared cultures and more, but the bonds they form can be transformative and often life-long.
Through its Alumni Group programming, the Miami University Alumni Association (MUAA) celebrates these connections and supports Miami alumni in reconnecting to the university through experiences that are most meaningful to them. At present there are more than 20 Alumni Groups supported by the MUAA, ranging from Greek organizations and club sports teams to degree programs and cultural groups like Black Alumni and 1809 LGBT.
New groups are forming as the program gains momentum, and the experience of working together with old and new friends to plan social events, reunions, and programs is particularly rewarding, as evidenced by the accounts of those who have been active in leading their alumni groups.
Marty Albers Hill `78
Naval ROTC Alumni
For Marty Hill `78, participation in Miami’s Naval ROTC Alumni Group is about celebrating a common bond forged through the rich tradition of Miami’s Naval ROTC program and the honor of serving one’s country in the U.S. Navy.
“For me and others who came through Naval ROTC at Miami, our pull back to the university is through the unit,” Hill said. “That’s where we got our starts. We all headed off to the Navy or Marines after college. It was a huge piece of our lives, and through that commonality, we just understand each other.”
Miami’s Naval ROTC alumni group has partnered with the MUAA since 2005-06, with a 50-year anniversary celebration for the unit drawing back more than 100 alumni in 2007. Hill, who is married to ROTC classmate and retired Navy Captain Paul Hill `78, helped plan that reunion and also served as vice president and president of the group.
In addition to hosting reunions every five years – the next scheduled for 2012 – the group annually awards the Admiral Sidney W. Souers Distinguished Alumni Award to honor alumni for distinguished careers in their field of endeavor. It also plays an active role with the current Naval ROTC Midshipmen, scheduling alumni events around the annual Presidential Review and raising funds to support travel to competitions and seminars. According to Hill, the group’s most important function is its service to fellow alumni.
“One of the difficulties of the military is that once you graduate, you’re shotgunned out into the fleet somewhere,” said Hill, who moved nine times while her son grew up. “It’s very easy to lose connection with people, and ultimately there’s a time when you wonder what happened to your buddies. We can be a beacon for that – we’re here, connect with us, find your friends.”
John Bloom `67, Ph.D.
Lambda Chi Alpha Alumni Association
When John Bloom `67 was elected Alumni Secretary of Miami’s chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha as an undergraduate, he was quick to recognize the position’s enormous potential.
“I was probably one of the first brothers to take that role seriously, because I was aware of the networking possibilities it could create for me,” Bloom said.
This theme has played out throughout Bloom’s life – with Miami Lambda Chis helping him find summer jobs, serving as his doctoral advisor at Purdue University, and even popping up as faculty colleagues at Northern Arizona University. Since the 1960s he has continued focusing his efforts on connecting Lambda Chi brothers to one another and back to the chapter on campus.
His efforts have included more than 100 consecutive monthly, electronic newsletters that go out to more than 500 alumni and friends of the chapter, serving as vice president of both the chapter’s alumni association and house corporation, and playing a role in the chapter regaining its charter in 2009 and quickly earning honors as Miami’s Greek Chapter of the Year.
“Going Greek gave me a reason to become more extroverted, and I’m sure helped me become a better classroom teacher initially and later a more effective professional counselor,” Bloom said. “I think I have some responsibility to give back as time and resources permit.”
Kim Bugg `01
Black Alumni Advisory Committee
For Kim Bugg `01 and members of the Black Alumni Advisory Committee (BAAC), giving back is largely about the support they provide to African American students on Miami’s campus.
“When I came to campus, my immediate realization was of being the only African American student in my classes, and during my freshman year, the only African American student in my residence hall,” recalls Bugg, who attended Miami during the late 1980s before returning to earn her degree in 2001. “Miami holds a sentimental place in my heart, and because I understand those challenges, I’ve wanted to stay close to the university and provide a source of encouragement for African American students.”
Bugg, who serves as the BAAC’s president, has helped plan the annual Black Alumni luncheon during Alumni Weekend and recently coordinated activities for the Quadrennial Black Alumni Reunion. The BAAC also has established a scholarship fund for incoming students and an alumni/student mentoring program for current students.
As Miami works to steadily grow the diversity of its student population, the work of the BAAC is growing in importance, and many efforts are being concentrated on increasing the levels of alumni support.
“I’d like to see more interaction from our alumni nationwide,” Bugg said. “We’re working to increase dues-paying membership in the Alumni Association and attendance at Alumni Weekend among Black Alumni. We also have a strong presence on the Alumni Board of Directors. Our network is strong, lasting, and an excellent resource.”
Douglas Cutler `04
Ask Douglas Cutler `04 what makes Miami’s Alumni Band (MUAB) special, and he is quick with an answer.
“Those who march with the MUAB have a chance to relive their college days with a once-a-year trip down memory lane called Homecoming,” Cutler says. “Coming back each year to march on the field in front of the fans certainly brings back many memories from my undergraduate experience.”
For Cutler, who was active with Miami’s Marching Band, Basketball Band, Ice Hockey band, and all the trips to bowl games and conference tournaments that came with it, his passion for the band and Miami Athletics are synonymous with his continued Miami Experience. As the president of the Alumni Band, he helps coordinate year-round communication with band alumni while also working to plan and promote MUAB activities around Homecoming and Alumni Weekend.
The MUAB also maintains an important role in the lives of current band members, helping raise funds for trips, including a 2011 return to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and occasionally filling in at events when current band members are unavailable or when greater numbers are needed.
“The fact that you can come to events like Alumni Weekend, Homecoming, and your local chapter events and reconnect with lost friends and make new friends is what these groups are all about,” said Cutler, who also leads the Columbus Alumni Chapter with his wife Jill Heinen Cutler `04. “It’s a great opportunity to stay connected to your Miami roots and also support the university when and where you can.”
To learn more about existing Alumni Groups or how to start a new group, visit www.MiamiAlum.org/Groups or contact Sue Harris at 513-529-9358 or firstname.lastname@example.org.