For some University of Arkansas graduates, living in San Francisco, Calif., may seem like a great distance away from the atmosphere, people and traditions of the Fayetteville campus. However, for Michelle Dime, an annual member of the Arkansas Alumni Association, her involvement with the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter helps to keep her connected and close to home.
It wasn’t until five years ago that Dime moved to San Francisco as a result of a job offer with Walmart.com. A long-standing employee of the company, she began working for Sam’s Club while as a student at the university.
“I started out majoring in marketing, but a lot of my electives were science classes and I did well in them so I switched to industrial engineering,” she said. Devoting her time to studying and working, Dime was unable to participate in many campus activities beyond her first year. As a freshman, she found herself cheering for the Razorbacks as a Lady Razorback cheerleader; however, because of the volume of coursework and the responsibility of having a job, she opted to focus on her studies so she could enter graduate school.
Upon speaking with Dr. Eric Malstrom, the late professor and head of the industrial engineering department, she decided to pursue a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering. “When he asked me to go to graduate school, it was an offer I just couldn’t turn down,” she stated. “He had such enthusiasm for his students. We were a very close group of people.”
Graduating with a master’s degree in 1995, Dime’s transition from college to the professional world was a pleasant one. Discovering that a fellow industrial engineer worked in the same Sam’s Club, she was approached about job while in graduate school. Immediately after graduating, she began working as an industrial engineer for Wal-Mart.
Quickly, she found herself advancing in the company, moving from industrial engineer to operations project manager to business analyst and finally, a software engineer with Walmart.com. In 2006, Dime made the move to San Francisco to begin her new job, and although far away from her hometown of Springdale, she soon realized that she worked among fellow Arkansans. “There were some people at work who were from Arkansas and they attended the activities that the alumni group put together,” she said.
Deciding to become a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, Dime eventually joined the membership committee. “Those of us, we worked to reach out to people whose memberships had expired to see if they wanted to renew,” she said. Although she is no longer on the committee, she is still an active board member who works to help with chapter fundraising and events.
One event in particular, the Louis M. Martini Winery BBQ, is one of the largest events of the year for the chapter. With all of the proceeds going to the Ernest J. Wong Scholarship Fund, not only do guests get the chance to partake in an afternoon of food, raffle prizes and wine tasting, but money is raised to help send students to the University of Arkansas. This year’s event brought the endowed scholarship total to $100,000.
Socializing with the chosen scholarship recipients is one of the most exciting aspects of the event for Dime, saying, “It’s just amazing being able to listen to these scholars, and those who are former recipients, to hear about what they are now doing in their careers…it’s great.”
Looking forward to what lies ahead for the chapter, Dime hopes to see an increase in membership and chapter recognition. Believing that it is necessary to get the word out about the alumni chapter, she finds it to be especially important for students who are recent graduates moving into the area. “It’s always fun seeing new people at our events who have found out about us and are anxious to participate.”