Since 1984, Eastern Michigan’s Black Alumni Chapter has supported hundreds of students through their scholarships, mentorship and support. The EMUBA has not only been a driving force on campus but also by coordinating alumni networking events to keep their members always and forever connected to each other and to the University.
The Black Alumni Chapter was cultivated from a desire to support low-income and first generation students and make sure they stayed in school. The first scholarships awarded from the chapter were mainly for class textbooks due to the rising cost of books at the time, says Chapter President Kimberly Jones (BS08, BS09, MA12).
Since that time, scholarships and other philanthropic programs have been expanded, and they are expanding again this year thanks to a generous donation from Judge Greg Mathis (BS82) who is a retired Michigan District Court judge but is best known for the “Judge Mathis” courtroom reality TV show. Judge Mathis is also a longtime member of the Black Alumni Chapter. The Chapter’s first fund is the Black Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship which is awarded annually and established by Freman Hendrix (BBA82) – former city of Detroit deputy mayor under Dennis Archer.
Since those early days, the Chapter has really evolved says Jones who has been a member for the past 11 years and Chapter President for two terms; she is in her third year. Now she says they are engaging alumni on a variety of different levels.
“We’re here not just from a social aspect, but for networking as well,” says Jones.
The EMUBA has steadily grown in numbers as they continue to attract new graduates and provide new programming. The membership base now spans decades of alumni from Hurons to Eagles and they use Chapter events and engagement tools to stay connected.
“We have a large following. Our alums are very specific, they want to connect and they want to stay connected,” says Jones. “We make sure they stay involved because the connections that we made with each other are everlasting.”
Influencing the younger generation is important as well, says Jones. Not so much in the sense that older alumni are instilling the same traditions in the younger generation, but rather impressing the fact that there should be traditions. EMU students need to make their own traditions and that will enrich the college experience, says Jones.
“You see the University change and evolve so much over time; my alumni base ranges from Hurons to Eagles,” says Jones. “So what we saw as fun (being Hurons) such as going to step shows and hoops games in Bowen, our younger alumni will have totally different experiences. And we encourage that. We say hey, build your new traditions but remember the past and recognize the significance of it.”
The EMUBA, like other EMU alumni chapters, represents an important piece of University life as all of our alumni are encouraged to stay engaged in their own way. In the case of EMUBA, their group has done an outstanding job of cultivating their alumni base and even influencing University policy and strategy. Jones says the input and feedback from her membership is important to the University’s overall well being and that this administration has done well to make sure those voices are heard.
“Looking back over the years from the student perspective to an alum perspective, I would say we have had a tremendous impact on the University,” says Jones. “Our input is important and our presence is important, and I will say that the University makes an effort now to really reach out to us and communicate.”
More than anything, however, Jones hopes that the programs and events they put together creates more fun for EMUBA members. Instilling that love of fun and camaraderie is a reflection of Jones’ own rapturous personality.
“I love it (being president). I have fun, and we try to put on fun events. One of my mottos is, ‘If I’m not having fun doing it, than I don’t want to do it.
“I like to enjoy the moment. I like to enjoy being around my peers, being around my friends and making meaning and memories out of time. And you would be surprised how many times we start trekking down memory lane and we end up with a good idea.”