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Connecting the Past with the Future

Roger Vacovsky

Last week, I renewed my membership for my alma mater’s alumni association. I understand now, more than ever, that my participation in the program contributes to not only the future success of my university, but also to my own past experiences.

Since my graduation, I have enjoyed watching the University of Houston (UH) flourish, albeit from afar, receiving periodic email updates regarding the upgrades to the campus. This includes the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, a tremendous effort by the university to combine five arts-based departments into one collaborative arts force. Although I am just one alumnus contributing to my university’s growth, I feel as though I played a part in making these improvements possible.

I was even eager to experience the progress of the Houston Cougar football team in 2011—which I had absolutely no part in during my time in school—as it set records for a fierce offense and toppled another, much more storied (and recently infamous) football program in a bowl appearance this year in Dallas.

There are many good reasons why we become members of our graduating university’s alumni association. As I had mentioned before, we begin giving back to the institution that helped us prepare for a successful career. We want to enhance the experience of the future generation of students so that they can go on to achieve greatness.

Believe it or not, the continued success of your alma mater retroactively increases the worth of your degree. By becoming a member of your alumni association, your membership dues help your university realize the success it consistently fights to achieve.

What drew me to think of this phenomenon of alumni membership is that everything existing within my relationship with my university is cyclical; I went to UH because of a growing academic reputation, and I continue to support the school to increase its achievements. This is not unlike Local Arts Classroom, a new professional development initiative Americans for the Arts is rolling out next month.

From March–June 2012, a series of five webinars and five post-webinar discussion calls will be available to budding arts leaders touching down all key elements of the arts administration profession. Ranging from community planning and engagement to resource development and advocacy, the webinar is directly in line with Americans for the Arts’ mission to inspire, inform and connect arts administrators. The classroom also features a culminating webinar of staff and board development, an essential component to the success of any great nonprofit arts leader.

This educational opportunity for our emerging arts leaders to engage with current arts leaders resembles the same cyclical giving one would contribute to a school that afforded them the skills to be successful. Through the Local Arts Classroom, Americans for the Arts creates that portal of direct knowledge exchange from master to student, providing case studies and real life scenarios–the most potent information an emerging leader can use to help them shape the decisions within their career.

Up to 40 emerging leaders will have the opportunity to converse with local arts leaders from around the country in real time, further enhancing this interactive experience. What better way to invest in the future accomplishments of the arts field than to pass that knowledge on to the next class of arts leaders?

It is no surprise that University of Houston’s motto is You Are The Pride; I am extremely proud that this guy and I walked the same open-aired halls of the arts building, although decades apart. Also, this guy was probably in that same building, long before this guy, just pursuing other great ventures within the arts realm. Their post-graduation successes helped put the university on the map as an important arts program institution.

And though I might not rise to the levels of fame as these alumni have, my career and membership contributions, regardless of size, will help us all sustain the legacy of our common ground.

The Local Arts Classroom is a great example of how pride for the growth and sustainability of the arts field is cyclical, as the master arts leader teaches and trains the emerging leader.

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