From left to right: National Alumni Board president, John Reap, Panama president, Ricardo Martinelli and Alumni Association Executive Director, Graham Stewart.

From left to right: National Alumni Board president, John Reap, Panama president, Ricardo Martinelli and Alumni Association executive director, Graham Stewart.

Striving to build a stronger relationship between the Arkansas Alumni Association and its international alumni chapter, Graham Stewart, associate vice chancellor and executive director of the Alumni Association, as well as John Reap, the Association’s national board president, traveled to Panama to re-establish connections with chapter leaders and learn about new and exciting ways to engage Panamanian alumni.

Since its chartering in 2010, chapter leaders admitted to feeling somewhat disconnected from the Alumni Association; however, during a meeting on June 11, Stewart admits, “We committed to strengthening the chapter through regular communication, by developing an annual event plan, increasing recruitment activity and arranging bi-annual visits by Arkansas staff.”

Another key factor for the University of Arkansas, the Arkansas Alumni Association and the Panama Chapter is the need and opportunity for growth and awareness. As the university works to maintain a presence in Panama, Stewart found it important to learn about the 60-year relationship and the initiatives presented within the country.

By establishing and reconnecting with the Panamanian leaders, university officials also toured the country, visiting the old city, presidential palace, as well as the Panama Canal. “We saw the Panama of today, the pride the people have in their country – and their connection to Arkansas,” Stewart said.

On June 14, an open alumni event was held at the Waldorf Astoria in Panama City, Panama. University officials including Chris Wyrick, vice chancellor for university advancement; Mike Vayda, dean of the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food & Life Sciences; Dan Hendrix, president and CEO of the World Trade Center Arkansas; Bryan Hill, assistant dean for student recruitment and international programs in the College of Engineering; Mitchell Spearman, director of development for the Bumpers College; and Michelle Pribbernow, coordinator of student recruitment for the Bumpers College, attended the event. According to Stewart, those who attended included current and prospective students and their parents, key alumni and friends of the Panamanian government.

Looking to the future of international chapters, Stewart sees the potential, but is adamant about building and maintaining a relationship with Panama, saying, “We will focus on Panama as our only currently chartered international program, but encourage contacts with alumni from other countries when faculty and administration might be visiting those countries.”