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Alumni affinity groups host events to create connections

October 20, 2023

On Saturday evening, the Bowdoin College Black Alumni Association (BCBAA), Association of Bowdoin Latinx Alumni (ABLA) and the Bowdoin Alumni RepresentASIAN held individual receptions in which alumni shared their own experiences from their time at the College and had the opportunity to connect with current Bowdoin students. For ABLA and RepresentASIAN, these were their first official homecoming receptions after their groups were inaugurated last May and July, respectively. The BCBAA was inaugurated in December of 2021.

The Homecoming reception launched the BCBAA’s first-ever year-long mentorship program for Black students. While a version of the program was tested last spring, the BCBAA hopes this expanded year-long initiative will become a more personal experience and not be confined to the solely virtual experience it was last year.

Director of Multicultural Alumni Engagement Joycelyn Blizzard believes this program doesn’t necessarily cater to helping students with their career path, but serves as a resource to help them thrive personally during their time at Bowdoin and beyond.

“One of the pieces that is really helpful across the board for folks on the margin is close relationship and mentorship, and so this group really felt like they wanted to connect with students,” Blizzard said. “This mentorship is different. It is really about thriving in the Black Bowdoin experience.”

Robert Johnson ’71 echoed Blizzard’s sentiments and is excited that the College can now offer opportunities like the mentorship program for its current Black student population.

“We had to fight the College to live up to its commitment to have [a] certain numbers of Blacks here on campus. A lot of us took risks in terms of demonstrations against the College’s reluctance to live up to its commitment to have a diverse student population,” Johnson said. “So it was great to look in the audience and see all these students’ power, and [I am] pleased with Bowdoin that it appears to be moving forward in sustaining [it’s] commitment to diversity.”

As this was ABLA’s first reception since their inauguration and creation of leadership positions, they too aspire to offer Latinx students a chance to network and create close ties to the Latinx alumni. President of the ABLA Executive Committee John Vegas ’93 hopes they will be a resource for students to reach out to and create a strong alumni network.

“My vision is that any Latinx students who want the support or resources or someone to talk to that we’re able to make those connections, one to one, but that also we’re able to engage Latinx alumni to be a more active part of sharing their Bowdoin experience.… That’s probably one of the biggest goals is trying to figure out how to create those connections and [create] the support that is available if students want it or need it,” Vegas said.

Vegas was elated that President Zaki could make an appearance at the event mere hours after her inauguration.

“It was nice for the President [of the College] to come and make her remarks and show her support for our students and our community,” Vegas said.

RepresentASIAN is the newest of the groups, but that has not stopped them from creating programming focused on alumni and now connecting with the current Asian student group.

“We focused on structuring the organization from an alumni standpoint and finalizing some organization roles first before figuring what the next step will be,” vice president of RepresentASIAN Matt Yantakosol ’10 said. “In the future, we are going to have a more defined connection to Asian students on campus, which there definitely is an appetite for based on what I’ve seen.”

As Yantakosol celebrates the event hosted by the RepresentASIAN organization, he has also enjoyed seeing other alumni affinity groups grow alongside each other.

“I’m really excited to see where we all go, and it’s been kind of fun to see how we are taking different paths. And our goals are probably similar, but it’s kind of fun to see how other groups are forming and reconnecting with others from that group,” Yantakosol said.

A common theme between the alumni events, especially for the newest groups ABLA and RepresentASIAN, was an overwhelming imbalance of students to alumni ratio, with many more students in attendance than alumni.

“You’d always like to see more [alumni] present there’s other family event activities. A lot of people wanted to be here. It’s just for logistical purposes [more people] couldn’t make it,” Vegas said. “But I look forward to seeing the size of our community … I know there’s already a number of alumni that are excited to be here next year.”

Yujin Pciun ’26 attended the RepresentASIAN reception and wishes that more alumni could have attended the event, but understands the organizations are new and just beginning to take shape.

“It was well organized. If I had to say one critique I guess it would be that not as many alumni were there…. But it’s good to know that these kinds of events do exist,” Pciun said.

Nevertheless, as the organizations are relatively new, ABLA and RepresentASIAN hope to grow in the years to come and gather more alumni to personally connect with students.

Blizzard emphasizes there is more to come from the alumni affinity organizations, and she strongly believes that the existence of these groups themselves have created stronger alumni relations and a safe space at Bowdoin necessary for both students and alumni of color.

“I think that there’s more to come. I think there’s more particularly around Homecoming. Although we were really student heavy in the [ABLA and RepresentASIAN] events, I think this bodes well for the long term because these students will know that this is here for them at Homecoming when they graduate,” Blizzard said. “A lot has happened in a short amount of time for an institution where folks of color really didn’t think they had anything to come back to Bowdoin for. So this is really, really game changing, and great for the future of the College.”


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