Q&A: Jessica Newkirk

How is work in Alumni Engagement at UW Bothell?

Jessica Newkirk, associate director, answers a few questions from Maria Lamarca Anderson, director of communications.

Jessica Newkirk
Jessica Newkirk

Q: How do you try to innovate?

A: Our team of two supports and serves about 29,000 alumni of UW Bothell, so we definitely have to be innovative! We can’t engage one-to-one with everyone, but we can create diverse programming that meets a lot of needs.

That might look like leveraging existing programs and events that departments are organizing and then adding our own alumni twist — such as a special meet-and-greet event or a discount or a giveaway.

We also re-share alumni-generated content on social media and love when we see alumni use the hashtag #UWBproud or post with their UW Bothell flag. (If you are an alumnus reading this and need a flag, send me a message!)

An innovation that’s in development is creating affinity groups based on clubs alumni were in as students — continuing to build and retain the communities and networks that existed through their campus experiences.

Q: What is the core of your work?

A: The core of our work is to nurture a sense of belonging and pride for UW Bothell. We do this through programming, events and communications that feel authentic to UW Bothell alumni.

This can include sharing personal, relatable stories of alumni on social media or in our quarterly e-newsletter; facilitating networking and community through affinity groups and events where alumni feel welcome to be themselves; or collaborating on programming that support alumni in their professional careers and journeys after graduation.

If we do this work well, then that sense of belonging and pride can become not only a powerful experience for the alumni themselves but can also have a ripple effect on future and current students through volunteering, mentoring and charitable giving.

Q: How do any or all of UW Bothell’s three strategic priorities fit into your work?

A: All three are relevant and front of mind in our work.

We try to weave diverse voices and experiences in all we do, and to seek opportunities for alumni from underrepresented groups to engage with us and feel seen. This approach allows us to look at who or what experiences are missing in our work. For example, we realized most of the participants at our events live in the vicinity of campus, so in the spring we’ll host an alumni happy hour in South Seattle.

Improving alumni engagement with the campus community and increasing career-connected learning experiences are key indicators for the other two strategic priorities. We host events on campus such as the Encore! lectures, the Husky 5k, Alumni Weekend and more. Additionally, we work with Career Services to support alumni after graduation and also give them an opportunity to stay engaged as mentors to current students.

Q: What are you working on today?

A: A lot of meetings!

This morning, I and my colleague Tsai-Ann Yawching, alumni engagement officer, made sure members of our UW Bothell Alumni Council were set up and ready to distribute doughnuts, coffee and fruit on the Plaza to support students ahead of finals week. It’s a great opportunity for alumni to give back, share their own stories and stay connected with the campus community. It’s also a great way for students to envision themselves as alumni.

Next, I met with Kim Wilson, director of Career Services, about the resources available to alumni and how we can uncover and share the stories of where students go after they graduate.

Then, several colleagues from the UW Bothell Advancement division got together to begin planning for the next Husky Giving Day, which will be on April 6, 2023. It’s a day to celebrate the UW Bothell community — by sharing stories, engaging with the community or making a financial gift. The alumni engagement team always puts together a series of fun and quirky videos for Husky Giving Day. The first year we did a telethon, then we did our own take on iconic commercials, and last year we riffed on reality TV shows. We can’t wait for this next one!

Finally, we began conversations about what the 2023 Alumni Weekend will look like. It will take place on Friday, June 2, starting with an alumni happy hour and rolling into Saturday, June 3, with the annual Husky 5k, which is a fundraiser for the Alumni Endowed Scholarship. The weekend culminates with the Bothell Block Party, a huge music and brew fest right in downtown Bothell.

Q: How does who you are show up in your work?

A: I’m pretty engaged in my local community in Snohomish. I volunteer with the Little League, the historic association and the city parks board.

I know what it means to give time, energy and money to something you care about, so when our alumni give back — whether it’s by attending events, networking with students, leading on our Alumni Council or giving financially to a fund that resonates with them — it’s easy for me to relate to their giving spirit and desire to cultivate a community of belonging.

Q: Where is your favorite spot on campus, and why?

A: Well, for the past few years our team has not actually been working regularly on campus. Our office was about a half mile away, and it was really hard to be away from the campus community.

Now we are back on campus, and it’s so refreshing to be around the energy of students, staff and faculty. On nice days, I like to sit on the Plaza steps to soak up the sun and watch people.

Q: What is your favorite thing about working at UW Bothell?

A: The sense of community and familiarity is pretty remarkable. We know we have something special here.

I hear it all the time from alumni, too, that their time at UW Bothell was a transformational experience — whether it was through working with faculty, feeling supported by staff, finding connections with fellow students or, most often, a combination of all three.

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