Kelly Barrows Nguyen ’06 finds meaning in giving back Twitter
By Kathleen Parrish
Kelly Barrows Nguyen ’06 began volunteering for Lafayette immediately after graduating. Her diploma hadn’t even been framed before she joined the alumni chapter in New York City and then agreed to chair what’s now known as the Young Alumni Committee.
“I loved everything about my Lafayette experience—from start to finish—and I wanted to keep promoting Lafayette and stay involved,” says Nguyen, who left her sales job at the Food Network after about 18 months to pursue a master’s degree in media studies at Syracuse University. She also had to hang up her volunteer cap because she knew she wouldn’t have time to both study and serve the College.
But when she returned to New York City after earning her master’s in 2010 to work in development at the Metropolitan Opera and then Barnard College, Nguyen rejoined the alumni chapter, first as treasurer and then as president, a position she held until last year. That’s when her husband (whom Nguyen deigned an honorary Pard by way of Fordham) decided to pursue a Ph.D. in English at Penn State.
Although State College is too small a town for a Lafayette alumni chapter, Nguyen still wanted to stay involved. So when the co-chair of the Alumni Council’s Chapter Committee stepped down, Nguyen stepped in. Now she and Heather Slugaski ’09 work with presidents of Lafayette’s 17 alumni chapters and facilitate communication among the group to help them achieve their goals.
More than 1,500 alumni volunteer for the College, serving as Alumni Council and Alumni Association board committee members, class officers, reunion volunteers, regional chapter volunteers, special activity/event volunteers, Special Events Committee members, and in other capacities.
“Lafayette volunteers are essential to the College mission, supporting all we do with their time, talent, and philanthropy,” says Rachel Moeller ’88, P’21 executive director of alumni relations. “Our many volunteer opportunities offer alumni ways to stay connected with the College, students, and fellow alumni, all while feeling a sense of pride and purpose.”
In March, Nguyen and her husband hosted State College’s first Wine 3/9 party with three couples and two future Pards. “It was small, but nice to get together with some Lafayette people who might not know each other,” says Nguyen, now coordinator of stewardship at Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.
Nguyen estimates there are about 75 alumni and parents in the State College area, and while most of the students on Penn State’s campus sport lions on their T-shirts, every now and then she sees a Leopard. “I get really excited when that happens,” she says, and not just in Happy Valley.
“Seeing someone wearing Lafayette out in the world, it’s like ‘Oh my gosh, you’re Lafayette too.’ It makes you realize we’re one big family.”
It’s a connection Nguyen drew upon as a newly minted grad looking for her first job and now as a conduit to social and professional connections. Well established in the development world, she relishes opportunities to guide others as they search for advice or a new job, whether it’s their first or third career.
“Lafayette was so good to me, and the alumni were so helpful when I was going into the job market for the first time, I want to do that for others,” she says. “Even now that I’m out for 10 years, I still find Lafayette helpful in my discussions with employers and finding friends in new places.”
Nguyen believes the College is also on the right path in raising money to boost financial aid, as she can speak firsthand on the institutional effect of accepting students without regard to their financial circumstances. “We were need blind at Barnard, and the students were so engaged and excited because they were given an opportunity they never thought they’d have,” she says. “These were brilliant young women, valedictorians of their high school classes, first-generation students, who never thought they’d be able to go to a college like Barnard.”
A diverse population makes college a better place for everyone, she notes, by exposing students to classmates from different backgrounds. Penn State is also in the middle of a campaign to raise money for scholarships, and although Nguyen works hard at her job, her loyalty to her alma mater remains steadfast.
“My money goes to Lafayette,” she says.
Wondering how you can volunteer for the College? Fill out the online form and a member of either the Lafayette staff or Alumni Association will contact you.