UA offers connections even after you graduate
2016 graduating seniors pose with Wilbur Wildcat on a couch outside Old Main.
The term “Wildcat for Life” brands emails, pens and graduation caps, but what does it actually mean and where did the term come from?
“Wildcat for Life” is the slogan for the University of Arizona Alumni Association, which first appeared in marketing materials in the 1980s.
In September 2007, the alumni association’s Communications Committee developed the concepts behind the words.
“The ‘Wildcat for Life’ term is one that’s thrown around a lot,” said alumni association president Melinda Burke. “We just thought it was a very important message to convey to our alums that they’re in it for life, they should have a connection to this university that’s lifelong.”
The connection starts with a few specific experiences that influence students’ lives and forever tie them to this campus.
These connections range from finding their dream career to meeting their “partner in crime.”
Another one of these experiences is changing from an 18-year-old “kid” into someone who is ready to take on many challenges. Kevin Johnson, who graduated in 2015 with a double major in finance and entrepreneurship, experienced this growth at the UA.
“I went from being totally just a kid not understanding the world at all to being an adult and knowing how to be responsible for myself and be a leader in the world and try to create change,” Johnson said.
Generally, it is assumed that the only way to support the university is through monetary donations to keep the university afloat, but that’s not true.
Susan Kaleita, director of the UA Alumni Career and Professional Development Lab and ‘09 masters alumna, said the advice she would give the graduating seniors is to open the emails sent from the university.
“We are not just asking for money; we are inviting you to things; we’re trying to help you in your career; we’re trying to be a resource you can turn to at any time,” Kaleita said. “Take advantage of the alumni career lab if you’re looking for a job. Then, later on in your career, go back to the UA.”
Some ways that alumni can give back can be to hire and mentor students, as well as come back to talk about their experiences in their field.
This can be done through the Wildcat Career Network, a website resource that was launched in March last year. Through it, alumni can connect to students and other alumni from wherever they are in the country.
The network has three major parts: It serves as a career resource such as resume editing, job search help and mock interviews; a hub where alums can hire other wildcats and a place where alumni and students can network.
The network is part of the Alumni Career Lab, which also includes resources for alumni such as webinars, career coaching and “Cats in the Corner Office” interviews that feature successful alumni.
“Once I got out of school, you always want to try and do something,” journalism class of ‘88 grad Al Bravo said. “At that time, you might not have the funds available to support [that] financially, but certainly there’s other things you can do, such as promoting the school and everything else. I did that for many years, talking to journalism students.”
The alumni association and its chapters also host events all around the country so alumni can meet each other. This gives recent grads an automatic leg up because if they are new to an area they can always find a piece of campus somewhere.
While there is no requirement to get involved in an alumni chapter, Kaleita highly recommended it.
“It’s the same as college, same with anything you do in your life in your career and community involvement: You get out of it what you put into it,” Kaleita said. “If you show up to alumni events, which are usually open to all alumni, if you get involved with your local alumni chapter when you move to LA or Chicago or Phoenix, that’s open to anybody and you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it.”
From the bottom of her heart, Burke urged students to stay connected.
“This university is stronger because of us,” Burke said, “That we are the one lasting asset of this institution that will never go away, and with that comes this huge responsibility that we always have to make sure this university is the best it can be.”
In the end, staying connected is another way of showing school spirit.
“Red and Blue is certainly running through my veins,” Bravo said. “I can’t imagine ever a time not being a Wildcat.” I’ll be a Wildcat until the day I die.”
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