March 13, 2020

Future Alumni Network: Build leadership skills, meet top alumni and create campus traditions

Undergrads and graduate students can get involved in programs like Ask Alumni Anything or 9 to 5 Hustle

It’s tough to say who was the biggest fan. Rooting for Mayor Naheed Nenshi, BComm’93, was voice-over queen Allison Smith, BFA’86, while cheering from the other corner was Nenshi — for Smith. The pom-poms were certainly out when both alumni popped by UCalgary over lunch to speak to an intimate group of students about a topic that’s close to both their hearts: Using your voice.

Nenshi admitted it was while he was president of UCalgary’s student union, back in the early ‘90s, that he found his voice. “It was here, on this campus,” he said, “that I began speaking for change and speaking up for people who hadn’t found their voice . . . without stealing their voice. That’s important.”

Decades later, Nenshi says that he still uses his voice, every day, to answer thorny questions such as: “How do we live together; how do we share a common space?”

Vision: to build united community

It’s precisely topics like this that the Future Alumni Network (FAN) — UCalgary’s first Student Alumni Association — is interested in exploring. Kicking off the new program last spring was a lively pizza party for its 40 fresh members. Following that was a meeting with university President Ed McCauley, to share the vision of FAN.

Some of FAN’s regular programming includes something they’ve dubbed Ask Alumni Anything. So far they’ve had a lunch-hour Skype date with Rhodes Scholar Bogdan Knezevic, BSc’15, who now works in artifical intelligence in Toronto for the Creative Destruction Lab, and Stefam Hoerzer, PhD’18 from adidas in Germany.

Aside from programs such as Ask Alumni Anything and Pizza Party PD events is another called 9 to 5 Hustle, which is what Nenshi and Smith headlined as speakers.

Emphasis on connecting students, alumni

Future Alumni Network is open to current undergraduate and graduate students and its vision is to build a united community of students and alumni. What makes Future Alumni Network unique is its emphasis on connecting students with alumni experts, leaders and innovators. The three programming areas of focus are: building leadership skills, meeting exceptional alumni, and creating campus traditions.

The event featuring Smith and Nenshi was a mashup of two of these: leadership skills and meeting exceptional alumni. With no tidy blueprint for her future, Smith used her own career trajectory — from studying drama to voicing radio commercials to running her own home-based voice-over company — as a springboard to illustrate lessons on how best to modify goals, be open to pivot, and how to develop your authentic voice.

Authentic voice is key

Whether your voice and presence is public such as Nenshi’s or anonymous such as Smith’s, being authentic is key. Although Smith has, very rarely, been asked to “add a little vocal fry” or speak in a foreign accent, most often it’s her warm and conversational style that clients, from Victoria’s Secret to Samsung, employ her to use.

“I may be recording something for Amazon’s Alexa or speaking at a telephony conference or coaching local yoga teachers how not to sound like Valley Girls,” explains Smith, “but my voice is mine and I developed it right here as a drama student at the University of Calgary.

"If I had met you 30 years ago, I would never have thought I’d use my degree for so many different and rewarding channels. I think it’s  critical that we pay attention to marketplace needs and shifts and move with them.”

If you’re interested in learning more about FAN or are an undergrad or graduate student who would like to join the Future Alumni Network, discover more.

UCalgary Alumni is proud to support the programming of the Future Alumni Network.