Even though the Hinckley Center ballroom was filled with pizza, barbecue, and desserts, the big attraction was the chance to win an inflatable cactus in a raffle. Everyone here was from Arizona—students and alumni—and the cactus would bring a bit of hometown desert to Utah Valley.
The event was part of the annual Alumni Chapter Conference, a September weekend during which chapters hold regional gatherings to welcome students to Provo and foster lifelong BYU connections.
Arizona was one of the chapters that hosted activities during the 2010 conference. Chapters from St. George to Texas to Georgia all threw their own parties at the Hinckley Center. Some chapter members knew each other, some didn’t, but all had their hometown, state, or region in common. The alumni chapter chairs had traveled to Provo for training and conferences; the student gatherings were an added bonus.
“It’s our chapter’s favorite event,” says Colleen Roundy Blake (’81), a chapter chair from Tucson. “We love getting all our Arizona students together, and we love helping the kids stay connected.” This year the Arizona chapter filled two-thirds of the ballroom—next year, they’re planning on using the whole thing.
At the gatherings, older students give younger students advice. “Talk to your freshman mentor about anything,” Elisabeth M. Earnshaw (’13), a freshman mentor and international relations major urged members of her Boston chapter. “Take advantage of all your resources.”
Most chapter parties also have a speaker address the students about staying connected and taking advantage of service opportunities while attending BYU. Lisa Harris (’11), a Student Alumni Association vice president, spoke to her chapter, Twin Falls, Idaho. “What I want,” she told fellow students, “is for you to really take to heart the school’s motto: ‘Enter to learn, go forth to serve.’”
A chapter chair from St. George, Vicki L. Lewis (’67), gives valuable advice for both students and alumni: “Getting involved and serving is the key to success and happiness,” she says. “After all, it’s the whole experience, what BYU is all about—giving.”
More at alumni.byu.edu