In early April, two campus events—Asian Alumni Day and Black Alumni Weekend—will bring together Amherst graduates and students for panels, lectures and conversation.
Asian Alumni Day will be held on Saturday, April 6, and Black Alumni Weekend will be held the following Friday through Sunday, April 12–14. The events are the result of months of planning and partnerships between student organizations, Alumni and Parent Programs and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Each event offers a range of compelling programs led by Amherst faculty, students and alumni, as well as time for campus tours and informal opportunities to visit with new and old friends.
During the separate planning processes for both events, a common theme emerged: students were excited to meet alumni, to hear about the ways their Amherst experiences were similar to or different from their own, and to learn about their lives and careers after Amherst.
“Alumni engagement has always been one of Amherst’s strengths, and these programs are a wonderful example of that,” said Amanda Lopez ’93, executive director of Alumni and Parent Programs. “It has been very rewarding to see the student work and dedication involved in organizing the events, as well as to see so many alumni return to campus.”
Four student groups were involved with the planning for Asian Alumni Day: the Asian Students Association, the Chinese Students Association, the Korean Students Association and the South Asian Students Association. Planning started in earnest last semester, and program highlights include a reception with students, a panel on “Amherst: Then & Now” and a keynote address from Kathy Chia ’88, P’22, co-founder and principal of Desai Chia Architecture and Amherst College Trustee Emerita.
“I believe this event is absolutely critical to allow students to connect with alumni who may have had similar and different experiences during their time on campus,” said Kevin Zhangxu ’20, current senior chair of the Asian Students Association. “For me as a rising senior, knowing that there is such a vibrant network of Asian alumni who have wisdom to share has been incredibly validating. I hope that my younger Asian peers know that they’re not alone even after graduation, and take advantage of this community we have constructed together.”
Amherst’s first Black Alumni Weekend was in 1974 and has been held regularly since then. The Black Student Union has historically been involved with organizing the event, and this year three other student groups also participated: the African and Caribbean Students’ Union, the Council of Amherst College Student-Athletes of Color and Remnant Black Campus Ministry.
The weekend’s schedule is packed with a range of programs focusing on everything from the Amherst archives to post-college careers. There will also be many opportunities to extend community; record, share and hear histories; and celebrate accomplishments.
Claire Hawthorne ’21, chair of the Black Student Union, noted that offering opportunities for alumni and students to meet and talk was a priority during the planning process.
“I think it will be a really wonderful experience to talk to alumni and find the things that are similar between our experiences and learn about the evolution of blackness at Amherst,” Hawthorne said. “We have archives and documents from different periods of time at the College, but we don’t often have the human element. And I think it’s a wonderful moment of preserving our community’s history.”