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Pitt alums return to clubs to build connections and networks

The Pitt News

Alumni return to sororities, clubs

Habitat+for+Humanity+members+build+in+front+of+the+Cathedral+of+Learning.+Pitt+News+File+Photo
Habitat for Humanity members build in front of the Cathedral of Learning. Pitt News File Photo

Habitat for Humanity members build in front of the Cathedral of Learning. Pitt News File Photo

Habitat for Humanity members build in front of the Cathedral of Learning. Pitt News File Photo

By Janine Faust / Staff Writer

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Pitt alumni have a chance to relive their college days during Homecoming weekend, whether that means tailgating, brunching — or building houses.

While others celebrate Homecoming on campus, the Panthers Habitat for Humanity asked alumni to participate in the group’s work day on Oct. 7. They’ll be demolishing and starting new groundwork on a house in New Kensington, a town 18 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.  

To facilitate a bond between current and past members, some organizations hold events specifically for alumni during Homecoming weekend. Though most people think of fraternities and sororities as networking and social organizations, other student groups have begun holding alumni events as well.

Abby McKinley, a senior rehabilitation science major and board member for Panthers Habitat for Humanity, said the club typically gets about 15 to 20 alumni to help out.

She added that some alumni who remain in the area and on the organization’s email list attend regular meetings throughout the year or participate in social events, such as apple picking.

“It’s good to have [alumni] around to talk to newer members about their experience with our club and how it positively influenced their lives,” McKinley said.

Some alumni even help keep the club’s membership up. According to McKinley, one alum in particular — 2015 Pitt graduate Abby Rollison —  plays a large role in making sure current members keep coming back to meetings and events.

“[Rollison is] a blooming individual who makes newer people feel welcome,” McKinley said.  “She reminds me that the personal connections I make through this club are super rewarding.”

Alumni events allow current students an opportunity to learn from older members. Rachael Rush, vice president of membership development for Pitt’s Delta Phi Epsilon sorority chapter, said the sorority uses alumni in the Pittsburgh area for a mentor-mentee program. Rush said one of her mentors, who works in the Swanson School of Engineering, has helped her with building a resumé and looking at career paths.

“Keeping in touch with alumni is a great networking opportunity. It provides a great support system,” Rush said. “We often like to say, ‘It’s not just for four years, it’s for life.’”

At Pitt, the Alumni Association helps current students and alumni network and develop their career. The Pitt Career Network, a group on the popular networking site LinkedIn, includes more than 18,000 members who current students can connect with about potential job opportunities. According to the PAA’s website, 107,000 Pitt alumni and students utilize the Pitt Career Network.

Pitt sorority chapters Delta Phi Epsilon and Alpha Epsilon Phi already have a long-established Homecoming tradition, which typically includes events such as formal brunches.

Rush said the sorority has been holding Homecoming events for over 70 years, since it was established at Pitt in 1945.

This year, those events include a casual event for alumni and sisters to “hang out” before and during Saturday’s football game, as well as a tour of the sorority’s living space in Amos Hall.

“We show the older alumni how the club’s become more tech-savvy, and how we’ve expanded both in number and presence,” Rush, a senior microbiology major, said. “We’ve grown, but we’re still holding fast to the AEPhi tradition of being philanthropic and active in the Pitt community.”

Some groups, like Pitt’s club cross country team ––  which was founded in 2012 ––   are reaching out to alumni for the first time this year through alumni homecoming events.

Serena Kantz, a junior neuroscience major and Pitt Club XC’s social chairperson, said the team plans to hold a relay race during its usual Friday practice time, pitting current team members against returning ones. According to Kantz, they’re expecting about 20 alumni for the relay.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to make this into an annual event,” Kantz said. “We’re hoping that we can create a tight bond between our current members and our alumni network in the future through a new Homecoming tradition.”

Brian Tackett, a 2015 graduate of Pitt and former member of Pitt Club XC, helped organize the event and spread the word about the relay race among other Pitt Club XC alumni. Tackett sees the event as a chance for him to catch up with old friends and start a new tradition.

“I want this to keep going for years to come,” Tackett said. “This event’s a good way to show new members the lasting friendships they can make by seeing the alumni keep coming back to hang out with each other and teammates who haven’t graduated yet.”

Kate Atlass, a junior economics major and vice president of operations for Alpha Epsilon Phi, said alumni events during Homecoming weekend are an opportunity to mingle and look back into the history of the sorority.

“I like knowing that after I graduate, I’ll be remembered through my contributions to my sisterhood — like the alumni I know right now,” Atlass said. “We should remember them. These people are important. They’re our past.”

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Alumni return to sororities, clubs