Newly established alumni affinity groups and chapter leaders are eager to expand their organizations

Newly established alumni affinity groups and chapter leaders are eager to expand their organizations

I n September 2020, senior hotel operations and development Executive William “Will” Perry Jr., ’10, was selected to serve as the first president of the inaugural LGBTQ+ Alumni Council for a two-year term.  Perry resides in Dallas, Texas, and comes from a family with deep southern roots. His father—a sixth generation Georgian, raised Perry in East Tennessee. He has long experienced the misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding the LGBTQ+ community in the south. 

William "Will" Perry Jr.
William "Will" Perry Jr.

Other Executive Committee leaders include, Abigail Downs, ’16, who serves as vice president, and Charles Morgan, ’17, event coordinator. The council is currently seeking someone to fill the secretary position. The Council members have outlined three core pillars of their initial strategy: growth, visibility and sustainability. 

"We’re reaching out across social media and other platforms to enhance our visibility and grow our LGBTQ+ alumni database."
– Will Perry Jr.
“Since coming out in my early 20s, I have been committed both professionally and personally to breaking down labels and demonstrating the value of diversity in all aspects of my life,” Perry said. “When the new affinity group was formed, I was among the first in line to volunteer for a leadership role, as the work of the council is an extension of my fundamental values.”

The council was formed to highlight the goals of inclusion and diversity at Georgia College. It’s another way for alumni to connect and serve as a resource for the university, students and alumni. 

“Historically, issues like LGBTQ+ status have not been tracked by the university, so we inherited a humble list of less than 50 names,” said Perry. “We’re reaching out across social media and other platforms to enhance our visibility and grow our LGBTQ+ alumni database.”

The council is also planning several events throughout the year on and off campus subject to health restrictions. 

“In January, we are launching our first scholarship campaign to raise funds for an LGBTQ+ Alumni dedicated scholarship,” said Perry. “Additionally, we are laying out a long-term plan to help ensure the Council’s efforts are sustainable in the long run.”

Realtor Rachel Ledford Weber, ’10, ’12, president of the newly formed Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia (DMV) Alumni Chapter, resides in Washington, D.C. Col. William Yarborough serves as vice president. Although he’s not an alumnus, his grandson is enrolled at Georgia College. 

Rachel Ledford Weber
Rachel Ledford Weber

“I serve as president, because I can’t really get enough of Georgia College,” she said. “When I left Milledgeville, it was almost like I left home. I want to have a little piece of home here in D.C. and have an outlet for other Georgia College folks. We’re very high-caliber alumni. I just want to give back.”

"There’s a growing number of alumni in the region who don’t really have an outlet to get together and network and provide resources for other Georgia College alumni," she said.

Her goals for 2021 include holding three events in the Washington, D.C. area. Weber wants to establish a professional network for Georgia College alumni and supporters for advocacy purposes, provide  mentorship opportunities for recent Georgia College alumni interested in relocating to the DMV area and serve as a means for Georgia College alumni to secure affordable and safe housing. 

“To have that network of alumni when I moved to D.C. would’ve been helpful, especially my first year here to talk to the right people to help navigate the cost of things and get a job,” she said. “There are Georgia College alumni who move here often.” 

“I serve as president, because I can’t really get enough of Georgia College. When I left Milledgeville, it was almost like I left home. I want to have a little piece of home here in D.C. and have an outlet for other Georgia College folks. We’re very high-caliber alumni. I just want to give back.”
– Rachel Ledford Weber

“It’s really important that we meet socially and establish some kind of group norm and vested interest in the organization,” she said. “I’d also like to get some feedback from others in the group.”

One of her main concerns for Georgia College alumni in the area is housing.

“As a realtor, this is a passion of mine,” she said. As someone who interned in the area, and accepted my first job on the Hill, I know how how shocking it can be to move from Milledgeville to DMV.”

Weber and her husband had a Texas A&M student temporarily stay with them until he could make it on his own. Now he’s employed in Washington, D.C., and has an apartment.

“It would’ve been great if that was a Georgia College student,” she said. “I feel that loyalty to the university. We don’t have an acceptable network of students. That’s really my big thing is helping people get up here until they can get on their feet and blossom into the world.”

Her first job working for congress and the congressional staff paid around $35,000 a year.

“This is not a bad salary, but when you have to pay $1,500 to $2,000 in rent, and take public transportation for an hour, it’s tough,” she said. “I’d like to reduce that kind of angst for a college student, who’s just getting out and trying to figure out what they want to do.”

Ultimately, Weber wants to establish a roster of alumni in the D.C. area to engage with students and young alumni. She plans to implement her goals by embracing the imperfections and go into it with a liberal arts mind.

“GC has a vast network of resources in the area," Weber said. "If we leverage them, as other colleges have with theirs, then we can help our alumni make their mark in the national capital. Whether it's politics, technology, real estate or any other venture, GC has a vibrant, diverse and active community in the region available and ready to support you. I hope that GC alumni in the area will read this and reach out to me, offering their support for our fellow Bobcats.”

Fox 5 Atlanta Reporter and former Georgia College lecturer Elizabeth Rawlins, ’12, uses her mass communication experience every day on the job and as president for the newly formed Georgia College Communications Alumni Council. 

Elizabeth Rawlins
Elizabeth Rawlins

A collaborative effort of the Mass Communication Department and University Advancement prompted Dr. Angela Criscoe, assistant professor of mass communication, to ask her if she would be willing to serve as president of the chapter.

“Them seeking me out was a humbling opportunity,” Rawlins said. “I love my alma mater, and I love what I do, so that’s why I agreed to do it.”

Rawlins was excited when she was asked to lead the council, because she feels it’s something that the school and students need.

“I definitely think that we have so many opportunities to connect with our students,” she said. “It's a connection I wish I had as a student.”

“The hardest part is leaving college and starting your career,” she said. “I think it's so important that we continue to bring Georgia College full circle.”

Mass Communication majors Florrie McCord, vice president; Abigail Ralph, event coordinator and Benedict Esposito, secretary serve on the newly formed council. In addition, Rawlins’ fellow alumni expressed their excitement to be involved in the Council.

The Council has met twice and formulated goals to build its alumni and student relations.

“My big goal is to bridge the gap between alumni and students,” she said. “Every time we have an event, I think it should also be an opportunity for maybe some star students to come and talk to the alumni and tell them what they're doing and what they're achieving.”

Rawlins and her executive committee are planning a small, Atlanta area alumni meet-and-greet event this spring, a career day this fall and a big event including a cocktail reception and silent auction in the newly renovated Terrell Hall in spring 2022. 

“A lot of times, especially in college, you’re narrow-minded about your career. Students need alumni who have experience in working with social media, graphic design or other areas. Everybody needs somebody to be that good communicator to students or alumni to make sure that the world knows who they are.”
– Elizabeth Rawlins

“At Career Day, alumni could let students know what they're doing in the working world,” said Rawlins. “Not everybody may be hiring, but I think getting those alumni to come back to represent their organization and to connect with students is important.”

She wants to encourage students to talk to alumni at the council’s events.

“A lot of times, especially in college, you’re narrow-minded about your career,” Rawlins said. “Students need alumni who have experience in working with social media, graphic design or other areas. Everybody needs somebody to be that good communicator to students or alumni to make sure that the world knows who they are.”

Learn how you can contribute to Georgia College Alumni Affinity group scholarships.