Last fall, when Laila Ouhamou (Col ’06) attended a reception for alumni given by President Teresa Sullivan, she did not expect it to feel as if she was coming home.
No longer a recent graduate, Ouhamou worried she was losing touch with her University. “Without the events for new graduates, through alumni clubs, I felt like I had dropped off after being out [of school] for a while,” she said. Attending the event with a group of friends from her graduating class, she saw the reception as an opportunity to reestablish a bond at a “new stage in my life” she recalled.
More than 300 alumni from the Washington, D.C. area gathered at the Willard Hotel to hear President Sullivan speak about the University’s challenges as a public institution and to celebrate its unique strengths. It was a chance to think about the University’s future and new initiatives, such as online courses and interpreting Big Data, but also to talk and mingle with fellow alumni. Ouhamou was surprised by how many old classmates she ran into and reconnected with—people she had not seen since graduation.
The event spurred a renewed interest in her alma mater. “I’m always proud to be a Wahoo but being in a room with that many UVa-ers made me miss it and feel reconnected,” she wrote. Afterward, she decided to sign up for one of U.Va.’s first Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs). She was also moved to make a gift. “I kept putting it off and putting it off, but after attending that event I became excited about the University again and said it was time to give back,” she recalled.