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By Barbara Black
Of its roughly 140,000 Concordia graduates, 17,389 live outside greater Montreal, about 12 per cent of the total alumni. Most of these people have warm feelings for their alma mater.
The university’s Advancement and Alumni Relations Department knows where these grads are, and are making every effort to reach them via email and snail mail, via the Concordia University Magazine.
Now there’s a new tool in the department’s arsenal called inConcordia, a social networking site that grads can use to find old friends, make new ones, get advice or find and post jobs. Users obtain an “email forwarding for life” alias from Concordia, and then they can personalize their profile page, share photos or add a blog feed.
This could be a great way to join one of the growing number of “geographic chapters” of the Concordia University Alumni Association, which are growing rapidly, as graduates outside Montreal come together to talk about old times and support the university. The chapters are organized on the initiative of the graduates, and the department actively supports them with resources and advice.
“The alumni who participate in these chapters are the university's best ambassadors abroad,” said Director of Operations Nicole Saltiel. “They recommend Concordia to potential students. Some have volunteered to become mentors, and some have even offered graduating students an internship or job.”
The biggest and most active alumni chapter outside Montreal is in the Queen City. More than 8,300 alumni live in greater Toronto. Their degrees span several generations, from the 1920s at Concordia’s founding institutions, Sir George Williams University and Loyola College, through to the present.
In fact, the age distribution of the Toronto-area grads is a snapshot of the waxing and waning of the pull down Highway 401. The chapter has events every few months, including jazz brunches, networking opportunities, casual get-togethers, pub nights, sugaring-off, and cultural events, such as productions by the Soulpepper Theatre Company.
The alumni chapter in Ottawa is the second most active, with 4,371 members, and plans a networking evening for Jan. 29. Chapter president Constantin Loudiadis (BA 78) said he wants to give something back to Concordia.
There are three alumni chapters in western Canada. More than 100 Calgary alumni enjoyed a football game at McMahon Stadium in October, a get-together organized with alumni from HEC, the Université de Montréal’s business school, and McGill. Several active graduates recently “rebooted” the Edmonton chapter. Vancouver reportedly has more than 1,500 Concordia alumni, and one of the highlights of that chapter’s calendar is the dragon boat race.
The new Boston/New England chapter is planning a wine-tasting event on Jan. 24. Chapter president Denis Kefallinos said in an email that for him, his years as a student at Concordia were a great investment.
“As an alumnus, volunteering my time is a continuation of that investment [that] pays dividends with new connections, new opportunities, and increased visibility for the university.”
The Tri-State chapter draws from 750 graduates in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. New chapters may be launched in 2008-09 in Washington, D.C., London, Mexico and California.
“When we visit chapters in Canada and abroad, we’re always pleasantly surprised how fondly alumni remember the time they spent at the university,” Saltiel said. “Some remember a professor who changed their lives, while others recall a staff member who was especially kind to them.”
As Concordia’s international students increase, so will the existing chapters. Alumni from Saigon and the United Arab Emirates have already expressed interest in forming geographic chapters.
There are three chapters in China now. A chapter has just been established in Shanghai. The Beijing chapter, launched in 2004, played host last year to the Executive MBA class, on their pre-graduation field trip, and held a farewell dinner reception for former Concordia president Frederick Lowy. The Hong Kong chapter is the oldest and biggest of the Chinese chapters. It funds entrance scholarships, and has raised substantial funds for the university.
To access inConcordia, go to concordia.affinitycircles.com/. For more information on joining or organizing a geographic chapter of the CUAA, please contact Lina Uberti, Alumni Officer (Geographic), at ext. 4606 or Lina.Uberti@concordia.ca.