I recently had the opportunity to spend an evening exploring how alumni can use their networks to empower UVA students. The event, which the Alumni Association co-sponsored (see Page 64), featured a group of students who participated in a global-investing January-term class, created by two alumni, David Burke (Com ’88, Law ’93, Col ‘94) and Mark Brzezinski (Law ‘91). It was an evocative evening of experience-sharing.
Traveling with the students across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, Dave and Mark transcended the boundaries of the traditional classroom and provided a transformative learning experience. The students spoke of how the class changed their perspectives and, for several, the trajectory of their post-UVA lives. During the class, they had the chance to connect with people and businesses that would have otherwise been inaccessible at this point in their lives, and they did so with guidance from alumni who were invested in their success. They spoke of learning how to network and talk with business leaders about challenges and opportunities and how Dave and Mark helped them to think big—really big. They described how meaningful it was for Dave and Mark to open their networks to students who only a few weeks earlier had been strangers. Those introductions opened a world of possibility—with four students receiving job offers as a result.
At the end the evening’s discussion, the students’ gratitude was palpable and powerful. Yet what struck me most was not the profound difference the class made for the students, but its undeniable impact on the alumni who led it. When speaking with Mark and Dave about the experience, I can hear their passion for the students and see how this experience has made their connection to the University deeply personal and meaningful.
I left the evening with a renewed belief in the potential for alumni to open doors and new vistas for UVA students. I’m excited to pursue paths for the Alumni Association to support those efforts. While I realize the model of a globe-trotting course may not be scalable to the entire student population, I know there is opportunity to create similarly transformative experiences for a much larger group of students. Opening our personal networks to UVA students is within the power of each of us and is one of the most meaningful gifts we can give to the University.
I look forward to sharing more about these efforts along with the results of our all-alumni survey with you in our next edition of Virginia Magazine.
Jenifer G. Andrasko
President & CEO