September 25, 2020

International Alumni Staying Connected During COVID-19 Pandemic

Staying connected has been especially challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using virtual events and social media, alumni leaders across 24 international clubs are bringing the Georgetown community closer together.

Earth at night with global network connections
Earth at night with global network connections

Actively Engaging Alumni Around the World

Alumnus William Holmberg (B’97), president of the Georgetown Club of France, was approached by the Georgetown University Alumni Association three years ago when he was leading the Paris club for the Fletcher School at Tufts, his graduate alma mater. Holmberg was eager to take on a new challenge.

“I truly enjoyed my four years on the Hilltop and was very pleased when I was approached a few years ago to have a chance to make a meaningful impact to the 350+ membership base in France,” Holmberg expressed. “Many of my closest friends in the United States and abroad are Georgetown alumni, and they appreciate my efforts to keep the GU network accessible to local members as well as study abroad groups through quality events.” 

Alumna Wakana Tanaka (SFS'97), president of the Georgetown Club of Japan, was also inspired to take an active role in leading fellow Hoyas after her graduation. 

 My experiences at Georgetown have truly changed my life and I am forever thankful to Georgetown. I would like to contribute back in any way I can.

Julia Farr (C’88, P’19, ‘21, ‘24), executive director of the Georgetown University Alumni Association, understands how important it is for Hoyas to stay connected internationally. Georgetown's international alumni clubs are often the first resource for a Hoya moving to a new country overseas. With over 12,000 alumni living outside the United States, there are many opportunities to connect with other Georgetown graduates.

Alumni House sign featuring the Georgetown University seal
Alumni House sign featuring the Georgetown University seal

Staying Connected During the COVID-19 Crisis

With the onset of COVID-19 in the spring, the Georgetown alumni clubs in France and Japan had to cancel some large in-person events. When it became clear in late May that hosting physical events was unlikely in the short term, Holmberg and Tanaka were inspired by the outreach and success of virtual events hosted by other Georgetown clubs and decided to follow suit.

“We came up with the idea for a virtual workshop and invited the speaker of one of the two cancelled events to lead it, using the club’s new Zoom account,” Holmberg explained. Around the world hosting virtual events has actually increased overall alumni engagement, broadening outreach beyond major cities. 

It is worth highlighting that the silver lining of doing virtual events has improved reach. Two-thirds of our membership base is in the Paris region, but members in other regions have been missing out. Going forward, we'll surely aim to keep at least one or two events per year in virtual format.

“We have organized Zoom webinars, inviting alumni and professors as speakers,” Tanaka shared about her efforts to engage Georgetown alumni in Japan. “The club’s goals have stayed the same, but we felt that we would like to support Georgetown more in times of crisis, especially because of how different things are.”

The Georgetown University Alumni Association makes sure international club leaders are equipped with tools to engage their communities in this trying time. These include innovative programs such as international networking, lectures, and happy hours. The association also showcases best practices through webinars and provides access to platforms like Zoom to ensure a continued vibrant sense of community amid the pandemic.

Over the summer the Alumni Association used social media to share the “90 Days with Georgetown” campaign, which encouraged alumni from around the world to support current Georgetown students by contributing to financial aid and COVID-19 response funds that address critical needs created by the pandemic.

A Spirit of Service

Holmberg and Tanaka’s efforts to build community illustrate the way international alumni continue to carry Georgetown’s commitment to cura personalis (care of the whole person) from the classroom and into the world.

For Holmberg, “Being a GU alumni in this capacity means being able to meaningfully serve and give back in a way that is hard to measure but observable.”

Tanaka expanded, “I feel incredibly honored to be a Hoya, and the identity as a Georgetown graduate gives me confidence and courage to be the ethical person and to pursue my goals.”

According to Farr, Holmberg and Tanaka represent the same attitude of service and community found throughout all of Georgetown’s alumni clubs.

I'm truly proud of the 61 virtual club events that have been hosted so far this year, and look forward to what our leaders will plan in the future.