On Wednesday September 23, the UFV Alumni Association held its nineteenth Annual General Meeting – except this one was a little different. Due to restrictions on in-person gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting – like so many others these days – was held virtually, via Zoom.
Whilst the content of the meeting was similar to previous years, the logistics of planning the event were entirely new for the Alumni Relations Office. But the challenges brought about by the pandemic, whilst not initially welcomed, have indeed been fruitful, as Alumni Relations Manager Whitney Fordham explains.
“The pandemic has presented us with a unique opportunity to shift our engagement strategy from an in-person, event based, strategy to offering more opportunities for digital engagement and moving towards a digital first strategy. Since the pandemic started, we have been able to launch several virtual opportunities, including an alumni business directory, a virtual book club, and an online AGM and wine launch. Digital engagement offers us the opportunity to engage with a wider audience of alumni at their own convenience.”
The meeting itself, which was open to the public, saw record numbers for pre-registration and attendance, including several participants from outside of Canada.
The board was joined by UFV president, Dr. Joanne MacLean, together with Chair of the Board of Governors, John Pankratz, who each addressed the meeting and praised the work being done by the Alumni Association in creating lifelong connections between and among alumni and spreading the stories of success that current and future students need to hear.
A territorial acknowledgement was given by the UFV Alumni Association’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Kihci Têpakohp Iskotêw Iskwêw – Emily Henry (Cert. Social Work ’05). This newly created position arose from the Alumni Associations’ Equity, Diversity and Inclusion policy, approved in May 2020, to assess and improve fair and inclusive decision making across the association, in line with recent moves in the wider UFV community.
Anita Nielsen, Executive Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations, gave an update on fundraising initiatives at UFV, including the impressive total of $150,000 raised for the student emergency fund and food bank during the COVID-19 crisis. She also commended the Alumni Association on having already surpassed its goals for two out of three of its endowments, and outlined the department’s new strategic plan in the run up to UFV’s 50th anniversary in 2024.
A number of changes at all levels of the board were unveiled at the meeting, which was led by the Alumni Association’s newly-appointed Chair, Derek Froese (BCIS ’13). Heading up the board after 3 years of service, Froese expressed thanks to the office for their work in meeting the new virtual challenge, and looked forward to an exciting year.
“It’s very exciting to welcome new alumni to the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and I look forward to what we can accomplish over this next year together. As UFV and our community change around us in concert with the rest of the world during these times of medical, economic, and social change; we will continue to serve and represent our alumni as we walk forward together.”
Assisting Froese as part of the Executive Committee is the board’s new Vice-Chair, Derrick Uittenbosch (BA Crim ’13), providing valuable governance expertise and maintaining the board’s total of Derek’s / Derrick’s at an impressive three.
In addition, the Alumni Association welcomed four new Directors-at-large:
• Marc Bergen (BA ’98 )
• Aman Khinda (BBA ’18)
• Keenan Beavis (BBA ’19)
• Isaac Veeneman (BBA ’19)
A fond farewell was given to several board members who are stepping down this fall. Associate Vice-Chair Auriel Niven (ABT Cert ’08) has served on the Board of Directors for 3 years, during which time she has held key positions within the Outreach and Partnership committees prior to serving on the Executive Committee.
Director-at-large Kelly Blakeborough (BA ’04) has served on the Board of Directors for nearly two years, lending key support to the Mentorship Committee and to the Alumni Open golf tournament.
Last but not least, the board recognized newly appointed Chair Emerita Ali Siemens (BA ’13), who was commended in a motion from the floor for her leadership of the board during such a turbulent year. Siemens has served for 6 years on the board in many capacities, working her way up from Director-at-large, Associate Vice-Chair, Vice-Chair, and finally to Chair. With her extensive experience of committee work, including the Mentorship, Awards and Recognition, and Outreach committees, there are few, if any, causes that she has not supported at one time or another.
Thanking Siemens for her leadership, her successor Froese said: “I am grateful to outgoing chairperson Ali Siemens for her selfless and dedicated leadership over the last year, and her extensive volunteerism in the years prior. If I could manage to fill even one of her heels as I begin my chairship, I will count it to be a successful one.”
The meeting was followed by the launch of the 2020 Alumni Commemorative Wine, and an insightful presentation by this year’s wine label artist, Paula Funk (BFA ’08), of some of her other works from the series which grace the labels of this year’s wines. Paula is passionate about art, education, and community service, and is happiest when these three things intersect. She maintains her artistic practice alongside full time work as an Academic Advisor at UFV, where she helps fine arts and liberal arts students connect their educational plans with their life goals. Paula’s works can be viewed at her website, PaulaFunk.com.
The Alumni Commemorative Wine is produced by Chaberton Estate Winery and sold throughout UFV communities as a fundraiser for the Alumni Association’s student monetary awards. You can order yours here