After 12 years at the University, Sandoval is a familiar face to many alumni who have met her at Homecoming and other Alumni Association functions over the years. In this Q&A, she shares her passion for supporting alumni, reveals her plans for an unforgettable Homecoming and shows that she is bringing some big shoes of her own to the job.
A passion for supporting alumni
PF: How did you come to work for the Alumni Association?
NS: For my first six years at University of Phoenix, I worked in enrollment. I was always drawn to student support because I knew that students came to University of Phoenix to advance themselves—just like I did when I decided to pursue my MBA here. I wanted to help them accomplish this. Many of my students would reach out to me near the end of their degree programs with questions about alumni benefits and how to pursue a second degree through the University. At the time we didn’t have anyone designated to support them during this transition. I saw that need, and I created a position around it. This position has since grown, and currently we have more than 1,500 alumni advisors across the country.
PF: What inspired you to want to support alumni?
NS: In my first role within the University, I was fortunate to talk with 30 to 40 alumni each day. I was truly amazed hearing how alumni were giving back and making a difference in their communities. I thought, “Oh my gosh, if we only had this resource or that support for them.” It’s really their stories that are my inspiration to help them succeed. During these conversations I noticed a need for alumni to connect with local peers, so we launched a campus engagement program, working in partnership with campuses across the country to host workshops, mixers and other networking opportunities for alumni.
PF: What are you most excited about in your new role with the Alumni Association?
NS: For the past two years, a large part of my role has been supporting alumni behind the scenes through our initiatives, including the Mentor Program and career services. I am really excited to have more one-on-one interaction with our alumni like I did before. I am humbled learning about all the things they are achieving, and I get goose bumps hearing how they are being acknowledged for their success. It’s my responsibility to be their advocate and to champion for those resources that can make a difference in their lives.
Why this year’s Homecoming is a can’t-miss event
PF: Homecoming is right around the corner. Why should alumni participate?
NS: I get so excited about Homecoming each year. It’s such a great time for our alumni because it is a chance for them to really connect with their peers in their geographic area. Homecoming gives them the chance to build lifelong connections and tap into the power of the ever-growing University of Phoenix alumni community. Quite simply, it’s a nice, fun social event. Even if our alumni aren’t very comfortable networking, it’s a chance for them to do just that in a relaxed environment. Our alumni also use Homecoming as a chance to get together and give back to their communities, and that makes me very proud. This year, Homecoming activities are being hosted in 75 cities, beginning Aug. 20 through the end of October.
PF: What can alumni expect at Homecoming this fall?
NS: I think our tagline says it all. This year, it’s “Mix, mingle, network: School was never this much fun.” We’ll have everything from baseball games and family activity days to entertaining receptions with nationally known, thought-provoking speakers. Some of the exciting events include a rooftop luau at a Houston Astro’s baseball game and an evening with special guest speaker General Barry McCaffrey in Washington, D.C. We’ll also take the opportunity to celebrate our alumni Community Service Award winners and promote the Paying It Forward® Scholarship so alumni can help someone else make their dream of higher education come true.
PF: What is your vision for the future of the Alumni Association?
NS: We are committed to providing even more career resources for our alumni to complement those we already have, such as our Mentor Program and launching Alumni Chapters in cities throughout the United States. We also celebrate inspirational alumni success stories in every monthly issue of Phoenix Focus magazine. I promise to keep you up-to-date on exciting developments in the coming months, so stay tuned. Really, my vision is simple. I want to lead the Alumni Association in doing all we can to help our alumni succeed because we’re truly their resource for life.
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about Nikki Sandoval