Contest allows students to meet distinguished alumni


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Photo by Courtesy of Christopher Howatt |

Joe DiPietro, a Tony award-winning playwright, is one among this year’s alumni honorees.


Five students will be selected this spring for a chance to wine and dine for an evening with Rutgers’ most prestigious and successful alumni.

For the first time, the Rutgers University Alumni Association is offering students the opportunity to compete for a chance to attend the annual Hall of Distinguished Alumni Awards Gala.

Winners will meet the honorees, who are accomplished across many different industries, according to the RUAA website.

The alumni honorees this year are Joe DiPietro, a Tony award-winning playwright, Sheri McCoy, chief executive officer of Avon Products, Daniel Reda, National Air and Space Administration senior research scientist, Harvey Schwartz, Goldman Sachs chief financial officer and Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of Education and Research at Sesame Workshop.

Upon winning this competition, the RUAA will award five graduate or undergraduate juniors or seniors two free tickets to attend the gala at the Heldrich Hotel in downtown New Brunswick on May 3, according to the Hall of Distinguished Alumni Gala homepage.

They would get the chance to socialize with an honoree of their choice.

This competition to attend the gala spawned from RUAA’s mission to enhance student engagement, which Maurice Griffin, chair of RUAA, said began after the association’s involvement with students in the Strategic Plan.

To apply, students must submit their resume and a two-minute video explaining who they are, which honoree they would like to meet and why they are interested, according to the website.

Students have up until March 30 to submit their applications, and the RUAA Student Engagement Committee plans to review their application by the first two weeks of April.

RUAA is not only granting students the opportunity to meet these accomplished alumni, but they are also trying to motivate students and introduce them to potential networks.

 “We want to inspire students and introduce them to these high profile people,” Griffin said. “If these interactions lead to a job, or an internship, so much the better, but we really want to give a glimpse at what a Rutgers education can do for you.”

With honorees across many different industries, students of all different majors can apply in the hopes of meeting someone who has excelled in their field.

“The ultimate goal is to graduate, get a job and to basically reach the pinnacle of whatever career you decide to go into, this will give them the chance to meet these individuals who have gone through Rutgers and achieved this goal,” Griffin said.

The video is an important part of finding out who the students really are.

Rather than choosing students based solely on GPA or academic standing, it was more important to the association to give students the opportunity to show how passionate they are.

The Engagement Committee plans to help the selection process and the alumni relations team, who would vote upon who the most deserving competitor, according to the website.

“The honorees know that the students they will be meeting are going to be those who we feel are our best and brightest,” Griffin said.

Yvette Martinez, senior director for Alumni Relations, said the winning video would have to resonate with the alumni and the honorees and should be more than just a fun and exciting way for students to interact with alumni.

“We have been thinking of ways to engage with students for years in more than an acceptable way, but in a meaningful way,” Martinez said. “They can learn from the conversations to be had and make professional connections.”

Although a new aspect to the annual gala, both Martinez and Griffin hope to see it in the future galas to come.

“This is definitely a special event that awards the alumni association and the University its highest honors, and although this is the first year we’ve done the competition, I don’t at all expect it to be the last,” Griffin said.


By Erin Walsh

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