In 2006, when David Cox ’05 moved 1,200 miles from Pullman to Phoenix, he didn’t have many ties to the community. Hungry for new friends, he emailed the Washington State University Alumni Association and learned that Lisa Steele-Haberly ’99 in Tucson could help him track down local alumni. It turned out that she was head of the area’s chapter of the alumni association. Cox immediately offered to help organize outings. “We just started coordinating,” he says. “She would plan alumni events in Tucson, and I would organize things in Phoenix.” He helped pull together networking events, game viewing parties, and Northwest wine tastings at local wine shops.
“It made my experience in Arizona, my transition there, a bit easier,” says Cox. He found a ready-made base of friends who could show him around and help him meet even more people. That they were Cougs and shared the WSU experience made it so much easier to get to know them. “They just understand you, if that makes sense,” he says. “It helped me meet a lot more people, and even grow professionally.”
He had to give up his Arizona network last year when he moved east for a job as market manager for the Colonial Life Arena at the University of South Carolina. Again, he found himself a stranger in a strange land. He missed his friends from Arizona. Right away, he started looking for other Cougs. “There’s not as many in the Carolinas,” he says. The Alumni Association surveyed 171 alums who lived in the area. More than 130 responded, and 17 said they were interested in forming a club. “Now it’s on me to follow up and start getting things off the ground,” says Cox. He has plans to organize a young alumni networking event, and then start planning some viewing parties around the football season.
Once he has a few events underway, Cox and his fellow Cougars can apply for official recognition as an alumni club, which will be voted on during the fall meeting of the WSUAA back in Pullman.
There are more than 60 chapters, clubs, and groups world-wide, says Mariah Maki, WSUAA’s associate director of Alumni Engagement. While most are located throughout the Northwest, it’s the ones farther afield—in places like New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and even Europe and Asia—that serve a special purpose of helping those far-flung Cougars find new friends and stay in touch with their alma mater.
For more information about WSUAA and alumni chapters visit www.alumni.wsu.edu or call 1-800-258-6978.