Monica Rao, VCU International Alumni Relations Liaison
Virginia Commonwealth University Alumni Relations Association launched its first international alumni chapter – the Middle East chapter – on 3 May, 2011 at VCUQatar. The event was attended by delegates from the VCU Alumni Association and VCU alumni in the region.
Sana Al-Buainain, director of Alumni Affairs at VCUQatar began the program by introducing the guests from VCU Richmond - VCU President Dr. Michael Rao, the Honorable Anne Rhodes rector of VCU Board of Visitors, Dr. Kamlesh N. Dave, William M. Ginther, Dr. Carol S. Shapiro, Stuart Siegel, all members of the VCU Board of Visitors, Gordon McDougall, assistant vice president Alumni Relations, Doug Boudinot, dean of the Graduate school, Monica Rao, VCU International Alumni Relations liaison, Dean of the VCU School of the Arts, Joseph Seipel, Dean of the Honors College, Timothy Hulsey and Executive Director, Division of University Relations, Pam DiSalvo Lepley - and VCU alumni from the region - Munthir Kuzayli from Lebanon (Master of Health Administration, 1973), Sonia Ashour from Bahrain (Master of Fine Arts, 1994), Ryan Haynes from Oman (Master of Counseling Education, 1998), Rania Bataineh from Jordan (Bachelor of Fine Arts, 1998) and Dr. Hasan Al-Arbash, Dr. Khalid Amin, Dr. Hashem Ghadanfari and Dr. Yousif Ali all from Kuwait (Doctor of Dental Surgery, 2010) who were in Doha for the launch. Ms Al-Buainain also recognized VCUQatar faculty who are VCU alumni as well as VCUQatar graduates from 2002 who were present at the launch.
Monica Rao, VCU International Alumni Relations liaison, took the stage and spoke about how the Middle East chapter came about from a conversation she had with VCUQatar alumni. She talked about the alumni networking event she attended in Qatar last year where she spoke to VCUQatar graduates who were “honest, insightful and took great pride in their education, but wanted to take it to the next level.” VCUQatar alumni said they loved VCUQatar but wanted more interaction between Qatar and US campus, wanted to be part of the big picture. Mrs. Rao said the initiative which stemmed from that session came full circle when VCUQatar alumni visited Richmond and participated in VCU’s ‘Passport to the world’ event organized by the VCUR Alumni Relations Office and knew that more needed to be done to make sure the commitment of the alumni remained lasting and strong because “connecting them not only expands knowledge of culture, but also promotes dialogue and understanding.”
Mrs. Rao elucidated on the ‘VCUQatar Day’ event, which was organized at VCU Richmond on 1 March this year and “gave students and visitors at the main campus an opportunity to experience Qatari culture and helped dispel cultural misconceptions,” according to VCU student Amanda Schutt, who was involved with organizing the very popular event. Mrs. Rao also spoke about the positive mark VCUQatar alumna Amal Al-Mehain’s visit to Richmond last year during graduation left when Ms Al-Mehain spoke about the work she had done as head of the design department at Barwa Media. Mrs. Rao said both events had propelled the Alumni Relations Office to host several similar events in the future as well as promote the ‘study abroad’ experience.
Mrs. Rao said her office was committed to engage VCU students and over 150,000 alumni worldwide, facilitate interactions and forge bonds between them and the new STAT (Student Today, Alumni Tomorrow) program was a step in this direction to allow both the students and alumni to connect, engage and serve. “Our goal is to connect them to the university and each other even after they venture out to the rest of the world because you never know where a conversation might take you.”
Following Mrs. Rao’s remarks, Assistant Vice President for University Alumni Relations Gordon McDougall proceeded to invite the three alumni representing the three VCU campuses - Munthir Kuzayli, Ryan Haynes and Ayesha Al Muftah (VCUQatar alumna, 2005) – for the presentation of the VCU Alumni Association Chapter Charter and unveiling of the Chapter Banner by Mrs. Rao and himself. Mr. McDougall then invited President Rao and VCUQatar Dean Allyson Vanstone to come forward to receive the presentation of the VCU Alumni Association Resolution of Commendation and congratulations from Mr. Kuzayli, Mr. Haynes and Ms. Al-Muftah?, the new representatives from the Middle East Chapter, on behalf of the Virginia Commonwealth University Alumni Association and by the power vested in him by the President for Alumni Relations, Donna Dalton, declared the chapter open.
Dean Vanstone congratulated VCU and the alumni on the historic chartering of the first international chapter and invited all then attendees to “meet someone new within the VCU community.” Mr. McDougall concluded with thanking everybody for attending the event.