The Arkansas Alumni Association’s Spirit of Service Award recognizes alumni groups who are uniquely focused on community service as a way to engage alumni and friends.
The Washington D.C. Chapter’s focus on service and connection to the community embodies the award, which the chapter received during the Alumni Association’s Volunteer Summit. In May 2014, inspired in the wake of the Mayflower tornado that ravaged the central Arkansas area, members of the revitalized D.C. Chapter decided to respond. The group raised $4,600 for the American Red Cross.
“We wanted to show we care deeply for Arkansas,” said Spencer Lucker BA’10, chapter president. “We wanted to be there to help.”
Other community service activities have included a food drive that collected 200 food items and $250 in cash in coordination with other Southeastern Conference alumni groups from Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M and a Toys for Tots drive with the U.S. Marines. Lucker said the SEC groups are also planning an SEC community service day and an SEC golf tournament.
In June 2013, the D.C. Chapter created a signature event to kick off the reinvigorated chapter, which has grown from 80 active alumni to around 300 engaged alumni. Seventy-five people came to hear Sen. Mark Pryor and Sen. John Boozman speak. Then, in November 2013, about 100 people turned out to hear Chancellor David Gearhart speak.
“Our focus was to create a community of Arkansas alumni to connect with each other, the University of Arkansas and our home state,” said Lucker, who has lived in the city for two and a half years.
The group decided it also needed a new watch party location. A bar called the Hawk ‘n’ Dove on Pennsylvania Avenue was looking for a team to adopt, so it became the “Home of the Razorbacks.” The first watch party at the new location attracted nearly 80 Razorback fans.
“That told us that people wanted to be engaged,” Lucker said. “They just didn’t have the avenues to do so.”
“Since we’re all native-Arkansans and diehard Razorback fans, we thought we could draw local U of A alumni back to the chapter by putting an emphasis on providing a better, more gameday-like atmosphere at watch parties that not only showed the games but also provided the passion and camaraderie to which Arkansas fans are accustomed,” said Tyler Reis BA’07, chapter secretary, who moved to the city the year he graduated from college. “Brandon (Spicher, outgoing president) played a huge part by securing Hawk ‘n’ Dove as our bar partner and Hog home away from home, but beyond that and some targeted outreach online the credit of the chapter’s recent success really goes to the outpouring of support we’ve received from UA alum living here in our nation’s capital. The pride of University of Arkansas graduates has always been here, the chapter just needed a coordinated outlet to express it.”
In addition, the chapter is working on creating the foundation for a scholarship fund and preparing for the soft launch of a mentorship program to connect new graduates with professionals in the area. “So much about D.C. is who you connect with or impress,” Lucker said.
“Much of our chapter’s recent participation success can be credited to our local alumni,” Reis said. “While we’ve concentrated on establishing a robust digital media presence to keep local alumni aware of chapter events, the success is largely due to the enthusiastic response we’ve gotten via our chapter’s Facebook, Twitter and chapter website. Additionally, through the stewardship of current mentorship chair, Tommy Pevehouse BA’09, we recently launched a chapter mentorship program aimed at aiding recent U of A graduates looking to move to D.C. While the program aims to connect aspiring professionals from the University of Arkansas with local alumni who can help kick start their young careers, it can also be a place where those looking to move to the area can go for advice on smaller things like where to live, things to do, etc.”
With an alumni base of 1,400 in the Washington D.C. area, the chapter continues to look for ways to grow and connect alumni.
“While replicating that gameday atmosphere at watch parties was our initial goal in order to draw people back to the chapter, we knew early on in our revitalization effort that the organization should be much more than that,” Reis said. “Arkansas alumni, in addition to being proud of our university, are a tremendously generous group of individuals who care not only about Arkansas but our adopted community here in D.C.”
“We want to make sure there are events happening throughout the year,” Lucker said. “We’re not just a football chapter.”
“What started as a way for Razorback fans to enjoy football games (although we now watch basketball and baseball together, too!) has become a way for people to connect and give back as U of A graduates in Washington, D.C. all year round,” Reis added. “While we’re pretty happy with the success we’ve seen so far, we feel that there is so much more we can accomplish as an organization.”