University hosts Alumni Weekend celebration

By JAE CHOI | May 3, 2018

COURTESY OF JAE CHOI Alumni and current students attended celebrations like The Hullabalooza, which took place on Decker Quad.

The Hopkins Alumni Association hosted Alumni Weekend from April 26 to 29. Alumni returned to Homewood Campus to participate in a variety of social, cultural and academic events, which were open to both alumni and current students.

The University held tours of school facilities throughout Baltimore, such as the Medical Campus in East Baltimore and the Film and Media Studies Centre in Station North; organized lectures from faculty and guest speakers; and provided entertainment in the form of the Homecoming Lacrosse Game, concerts, tent parties and meals. 

Various student groups also hosted their own events throughout the weekend to provide alumni with opportunities not only to reconnect with each other, but also to connect with current Hopkins students. 

Senior Associate Director of the Homewood Reunion Program Pat Conklin said that over 7,500 alumni and their guests attended the 2018 Alumni Weekend. According to her, both alumni and current students enjoy learning more about each other’s experiences at Hopkins.

“Our goal is to engage our alumni; bring them back to the University; have them reconnect with their friends and classmates; learn about the new things that are happening on campus; and give them the opportunity to meet with students,” Conklin said.

The President and Deans’ Breakfast, which took place on Saturday morning in the Glass Pavilion, brought together administrators, alumni and students to celebrate the University’s progress and alumni achievements. 

University President Ronald J. Daniels, James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences Beverly Wendland and Benjamin T. Rome Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering Ed Schlesinger discussed the future of the school at the Breakfast.

Daniels shared his appreciation for the $75 million donation that William H. Miller, an investor and Hopkins alumnus, made to the Philosophy department. According to Daniels, this donation spoke to the importance of critical thinking at Hopkins, especially at a time when support for the humanities is declining at many of the University’s peer institutions.

“Grappling with big ideas matters,” he said. “In a world where we’re contending with the ethical impacts of genetic engineering, the challenges of economic and political upheaval and the interconnectedness of the built and natural environment, critical inquiry — the lifeblood of our University — is more vital than ever.”

He asserted that though Hopkins may have changed since many of the alumni were students, the University’s core commitment to ideas that make an impact remained strong.

Daniels then discussed recent physical changes to the Homewood Campus, highlighting the new approach to teaching and learning in education today.

“New buildings, like the Brody Learning Commons, Gilman Hall’s light-filled atrium and the flexible cross-disciplinary lab spaces in the Undergraduate Teaching Labs [are] all explicitly designed for today’s digital and collaborative approaches to learning,” he said.

Shortly after Daniels’ remarks, Wendland and Schlesinger presented honorary awards to two alumni. They recognized Arthur Eisenberg, Class of 1968, for his work as the legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU); and Joseph Pistritto, Class of 1979, for his achievements as a site reliability engineering director for Google and for his contributions to the Alumni Association.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Eisenberg discussed how he chose his career path and advised students to take advantage of unanticipated circumstances.

“Life takes you in many different ways,” he said. “I was in graduate school. I was at an anti-war rally, protesting the Vietnam War, and I found myself standing next to a lawyer from the NYCLU. We had a conversation, and one thing led to another, and I left graduate school and went to work for the NYCLU.”

In addition to formal events and lectures, the Alumni Association also hosted several social events such as The Hullabalooza, a tent party which took place Saturday night in a tent on the Decker Quad. The party featured live music and refreshments and aimed to give alumni the opportunity to reconnect with each other and with current students.

Junior Anthony Garay has been part of Alumni Student Ambassadors (ASA) for three years. ASA is comprised of student volunteers who help organize Alumni Weekend. He said that the Hullabalooza was his favorite part of Alumni Weekend because of the diverse range of alumni present. According to him, the oldest graduating class represented was the Class of 1938.

Garay appreciated being able to connect with alumni who were at Hopkins at different moments in history.

“At Hullabalooza, you can see people all the way from in their 70s to people in their 20s and 30s dancing the night away. You see the whole family that is Hopkins,” he said. “Through the generations, through the years, you have people who were here when there weren’t women at Hopkins, and you have people here who saw MLK [Martin Luther King Jr.] or Nelson Mandela come to Shriver.”

Shijit Dasgupta, Class of 2013, reflected on his time as a Hopkins undergraduate, focusing on his experiences as a part of the Mechanical Engineering department. 

Dasgupta discussed the need for Hopkins to provide a student center in order to alleviate the pressure on students that came from their academics.

“We didn’t really have a student union, and we still don’t from what I’ve heard,” he said. “Part of [the responsibility] is on the student to relax, but also on the University to create environments to relax.”

According to Dasgupta, the University’s resources for connecting alumni to each other and to current students could be improved. Though the University was facilitating some interaction, he said, the alumni outreach process could be made much easier and efficient.

Junior ASA member Kyla Persky added that students and alumni tend to be unaware of the already existing resources to facilitate outreach. 

“If you know where to look, the opportunities to network and connect with alumni are abundant. All you have to do is ask,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “That being said, there is a bit of a learning curve to accessing these resources, which is precisely what ASA is hoping to eliminate.”

Sophomore Scotty McGaugh, who joined ASA so that he could better connect with alumni, agreed.

“Alumni are always happy to help, so a lot of this comes down to the individual, to if you’re willing to call them up and see if they can help you in some way,” he said.

Some alumni also expressed concerns about challenges faced by current students, such as harassment.

Class of 1961 alumna Judith Berger’s family has been associated with Hopkins for the past century: Her brother, cousin, two nephews, two uncles and aunt all attended the University. She said, however, that neither she nor her family members had ever experienced the kind of problems faced by students today.

“It’s dangerous,” Berger said. “I never experienced harassment. I never experienced that kind of anxiety, and I was on campus everyday for four years from 1957 to 1961.”

Dasgupta emphasized the importance of staying connected to the person he was as an undergraduate.

“When you graduate, you get to know the real world, and it’s really important to get in touch with your undergrad self,” Dasgupta said. “It’s really a free period of your life where the external pressures of life don’t hit you.”

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