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London chapter is model international alumni group

By Kate Helm

Travel anywhere in the U.S. and you may have a Leopard sighting. The same is true of 91 countries around the world. That’s why, with 36 established alumni chapters in the U.S., the Office of Alumni Affairs and the Alumni Association have set their sights on starting chapters abroad.

Sherri Jones, director of alumni affairs, explains that London was the natural choice for a pilot international chapter because it’s home to the largest concentration of Lafayette alumni living abroad.

“The goal of the alumni office and Alumni Association is to make the Lafayette experience last a lifetime through alumni connections,” she says. “Our first international chapter will expand the scope of our alumni outreach and will serve Lafayette well as we move forward with the College’s new strategic plan. Our alumni are our finest ambassadors for the College and to have them connected to each other around the globe is powerful.”

The London chapter got off the ground when Beth Nelson ’96, director of major gifts, hosted a wine-tasting event in South Kensington. Kate Ross ’90, senior management consultant for IBM Global Business Services, stayed in touch with Nelson after that first meeting and got hooked on the idea of creating a Lafayette community in London.

Ross has been traveling internationally since high school. She was living in Germany during her senior year when a visit from a Lafayette professor helped her make the decision to attend the College instead of other schools where she had been accepted. Rado Pribic, Williams Professor of Languages and chair of the international affairs program, visited her while on sabbatical to talk about the College and help her arrange financial aid.

“The personal touch made all the difference,” she says. “In situations like that, or if there is a call for a more formal representation, alumni abroad play a clear role in representing the College. The group here in London is incredibly diverse in terms of ages, careers, backgrounds, and interests, which I believe makes our ambassadorial role all the more powerful.

“Being active in the Lafayette community abroad puts me in a network of people with similar experiences and interests where I can share information or occasionally advise people starting out their international careers. I’m also at a stage personally where I would like to broaden my social network, and this certainly adds to it.”

The idea of international ambassadors is exactly what the Alumni Association had in mind when it tapped Alumni Council member Ed Auble ’61, owner of Auble Financial and managing partner for Broker Resource Center, and Barry McCarty, former dean of enrollment services, to co-chair the International Committee established in 2006.

Auble brings vast international experience to the table. As a naval officer, he was stationed at NATO Southern Headquarters in Naples, Italy, from 1963-65. After he received his master’s degree in international management from Thunderbird, he managed overseas operations for AIG in Jamaica, Greece, Aruba, Iran, and Saudi Arabia from 1973-80. In the late 1980s, he taught international business at Immaculata University.

“‘International’ is in my blood,” he says. “I applaud [President] Dan Weiss, our trustees, faculty, administration, and all others who incorporated global outreach into our strategic plan. It’s a small world, and it’s where our graduates will be working and living.”

Forward thinking is what the Alumni Association Ambassador program is all about. The Alumni Association is looking for dedicated alumni to serve as points of contact in countries or regions where a chapter would not be viable. Auble notes that response has been positive among alumni so far.

Ideally, these ambassadors would provide opportunities in the way members of the London chapter did when they hosted Qiong Wu ’09 (Shanghai, China) for a weeklong externship in January. Wu, who is pursuing a B.S. mathematics degree and A.B. with a major in economics and business, got an inside look at financial services. Jane Wiest ’87 hosted Wu for his stay in London. He had externship experiences with He Shen ’97, Lloyds TSB; Vijay Rajguru ’84, GoldenTree Asset Management; and Richard Landsberger S’77, Fairfield Greenwich Group.

“No matter if a student is studying abroad or an alumnus is relocating overseas, this move can seem daunting at the best of times,” says Landsberger. “With a strong alumni presence, the overseas move is made easier.”

Landsberger and his wife, Robin Landsberger ’77, will host a small, private dinner for Weiss during his visit to London at the end of this month. Weiss and his wife, Sandra, also will visit the chapter at a dinner and reception to be held at the Bluebird restaurant. Interested alumni can register online.

At a dinner celebrating the 250th birthday of the Marquis de Lafayette last November, Nelson and Mary Pat Staats, associate director of alumni affairs, helped establish an executive committee that includes President Andrew Readinger ’87, Ross, Ward A. Follette ’86, Joanne Murray ’87, Shen, Andrea Josephson Sullivan ’84, and Peter M. Sullivan ’82, who is coordinating the 2008 Lafayette-Lehigh football telecast party in London.

The chapter plans to hold an event at the beginning of July for the 23 students in the summer interim course Ethical and Social Issues in Healthcare in the U.K. and the U.S., led by Steve Lammers, Manson Professor of the English Bible, and Alan Childs, professor of psychology.

“We reach out to the world and we are preparing our graduates to thrive internationally,” says Auble. “We need to locate and engage those of our [28,000-plus] alumni, whether located abroad or in this country, who are willing to help with global outreach. I understand the joys and challenges of working overseas. I have been pleased to work alongside Barry in support of the College. It’s a pleasure to work with the International Students Association (ISA) on campus, its members, and its adviser, Janine Care Block ’94. American students can learn about other cultures from their roommates, by attending the ISA Extravaganza, and many other ways. It’s part of the liberal education Lafayette offers.”

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