Although she’s the only full-time UC Merced staff member focused on alumni, Heather Buckner says the Alumni Affairs Office is definitely not about her.
“Alumni should feel a connection to the university, not to me,” she said.
Buckner said UC Merced alumni know the value of their degrees is directly related to the growing prestige of the campus and the success of their peers, so they have a unique investment in the campus’ continued progress.
She’s using that momentum to establish UC Merced’s first Alumni Association Board. Eleven members have already been named. The board will serve an advisory function for Buckner’s office and also found regional alumni chapters.
Reviewing candidates has given Buckner an inkling of the job she has ahead.
“They are already so proud of their ideas and achievements, and rightly so,” she said. “They have achieved so much, and they see no limits. Their expectations will push all of us.”
The launch of intercollegiate athletics this fall will provide opportunities for alumni to get together and cheer on the Golden Bobcats, Buckner said.
Other upcoming events also include alumni. On Aug. 22, everyone can welcome the new UC Merced freshmen and transfer students at the Scholars Lane Bridge Crossing. Music, treats and games will be provided.
UC Merced’s Homecoming will be Oct. 22. Buckner is still planning alumni events for that weekend and would be happy to hear suggestions from UC Merced grads.
She also encourages all alumni to update their contact information.
“We’re ahead of the curve compared with other UC campuses in terms of percentage of accurate information,” she said. “We want to keep it that way.”
Buckner said alumni should look forward to hearing from current students during the campus’ first phone-a-thon this fall. “They’ll have a chance to speak with a student, learn the new things that are happening on campus and support UC Merced as alumni donors,” she said.
Buckner, an Iowa native, graduated from Luther College, a small liberal arts school. She spent several years working in development and alumni affairs for American University in Washington, D.C. She joined UC Merced in May.
“I was inspired by the can-do attitude on this campus,” Buckner said. “My colleagues, my predecessor, my supervisor and the students I have met — everyone is so excited to help build this university. You don’t see that enthusiasm and ownership in more established institutions.”