The importance of connecting Black alumni
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, November 14, 2023
Let’s begin back in the summer of 2022 when I had the idea to bring Black alumni together with current Black Notre Dame (ND) students where I was interning in New York City. Little did I know, it would grow into something special for the Black ND community and show the impact an individual can have on their community.
I formulated the idea for the event after meeting so many amazing Black alumni during my time in New York City. The interactions made me reflect on how other Black students could benefit from meeting alumni who look like them and share the same cultural journey. I forged bonds with alumni who had been through similar things to what I was currently going through as an undergraduate student of color. The alumni shared lessons and knowledge that can only be acquired from years of experience as a Black professional. The Black alumni allowed me to see how bright of a future I could have as a Black man graduating from the University of Notre Dame. They gave me hope, and that meant a lot to me. I wanted to share that beacon of hope with others. This reflection culminated in my working with Trebor Goodall, a Black ND alumnus, in hosting a networking event in New York City to bring current students and alumni together in great numbers. The event successfully achieved its goal of bringing the Black Notre Dame community together in New York City, with a turnout of 22 students and 14 alumni. The networking event occurred at a ping pong venue and offered a casual and inviting atmosphere to cultivate genuine relationships. The room was filled with people having fun together, learning lessons and sharing knowledge. However, the event was prohibitive for some who could not afford the $65 fee to attend and was put together within two weeks. I set out to improve and expand the event for next year.
And expand the event I did! After two written proposals, grants totaling $10,000 to make the event accessible for everyone, lots of coordinating, creating a marketing campaign and many other details I won’t make you read about, the Summer Social Networking Event was expanded to include New York City, Chicago and Atlanta. The event took place at a bowling alley in each city. These events saw over 130 individuals turnout, with about 55% of the participants being students. Although I was only able to attend and host the Chicago event, I kept hearing from students and alumni alike how great the New York City and Atlanta events were. While hosting the Chicago event, I saw the event unfold in real-time. It provided a safe space for individuals to have candid conversations and foster authentic relationships. Seeing the Black women of ND come together and have conversations about being a Black woman professional at the Chicago event was one example of what took place there. Seeing the guys have fun bowling and competing in the hope of winning the free Black Alumni Association shirt was another highlight of the event. The event allowed alumni to usher in the next generation of leaders and help create a brighter future. The students were able to see and interact with the Black ND community’s beacons of hope and find new goals to work towards. The event was a beautiful show of the Black Excellence that Notre Dame has presented on its campus and all throughout the country.
The network of Black alumni made this event possible, with three alumni in particular, Trebor Goodall of New York City, Brandon Hardy of Atlanta and Chaz Milligan of Chicago, volunteering to host it in each of their respective cities. Additionally, this beautiful flower would never have grown during its early planning stages without the Black Alumni of Notre Dame, the organization helping and guiding me. Having allies such as DJ Washington and Ryan Willerton from the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development for financial support totaling $10,000 made this event possible. We hope more allies and support will emerge as the Black ND Community continues to grow and develop. Special thanks to Kelsey Dinvaut and Alexx Johnson for helping with the marketing campaign for the event. Lastly, thank you to everyone who came out across all three events. None of this would be possible without you all and the community.
Chicago was the last event to occur on July 8. I concluded it with a great quote from Atomic Habits, which read, “Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to a tribe.” This embodied everything that the event stood for — having students there eager to learn from some of the smartest minds that came before them. We had alumni there to inspire the next generation to keep working hard and symbolize the light at the end of the tunnel. These two elements will continue to be the hallmarks of an event that will become an annual tradition for the Black ND community.
class of 2025
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.