“OU Unplugged” Connects Students and Alumni

Meet the O Team—some of Oglethorpe’s most engaging students who share their stories about the Oglethorpe student experience at various alumni and campus events.

The O Team (l-r): Kai Street '14, Tirzah Brown '14, Stephanie Croston '13 and Weston Manders '12.

During Oglethorpe’s Fall Break on October 8-9, I had the incredible opportunity to accompany President Schall and Alumni Office staff to New York City as a member of the O Team to present “OU Unplugged,” a panel presentation about student life at Oglethorpe for New York area alumni.

Members of the O Team who traveled with me included Stephanie Crosten ’13, Kai Street ’14 and Weston Manders ’12. I had never been to New York City before so the whole experience was special from beginning to end. But, the star attraction of our trip was definitely the conversations we had with alumni gathered at the Charles Bank Gallery on the Lower East Side.

Before this trip, I was quite familiar with the passionate, interesting and all-together wonderful students at OU. However, I learned from my conversations at the event that alumni who graduated before I was even born share those same traits. Every person that I spoke with at the event is living a life of purpose.  

I had the opportunity to connect with a fellow Alpha Phi Omega brother, discuss economics with a software engineer originally from Cameroon, and meet a sweet elderly couple that spends part of each year in my hometown of Ft. Myers, Fla. I treasured every conversation with each graduate and I enjoyed observing people who had never met each other connecting over their shared Oglethorpe experiences and memories.

Following the alumni event, my fellow travelers and I toured all over the city seeing as many sites as we could fit in to our 40-hour visit to the Big Apple. From Ellis Island to Times Square and Central Park, I loved the sights and sounds of New York City and can’t wait to return for another visit. I also look forward to attending alumni events when I graduate and meeting OU students of the future.

Oglethorpe’s Career Take Out: More Than Just a Meal!

Oglethorpe students practiced their networking skills a few weeks ago by participating in Career Take Out—three community dinners planned by the Alumni Office and Career Services. About 20 students participated in the events, along with alumni and staff members. The program connects students who are focusing on their job search and preparation with Oglethorpe alumni in similar career fields.

Alumni in Atlanta graciously opened their homes to students for small dinner parties, bringing everyone together in a friendly environment for good food, conversation, career advice and camaraderie. This year’s event focused on three specific career/majors:  English Communications, Pre-Law and undecided majors.

Janice McNeal ’97, a community volunteer and philanthropist, hosted the English/Communications group, along with Ashish Thakur ’99, executive director and CFO of The Indus Entrepreneurs of Atlanta, Megan Van Doran ’09, social marketing specialist for the InterContinental Hotels Group, and Danielle Hitchchock ’12, a marketing coordinator for the Heeney Company.

Deborah Lange ’03 , director of admissions for the Lovett School, and her husband Rocky Lange, a Financial Advisor for BB&T, hosted the Undecided group, along with alums Trevor Sheffield ’09, manager of marketing and customer relations at Geo Certs SSL, and Whitney Hockensmith ’09, customer service representative at Enterprise Fleet Management.

Joe ’91 and Andrea Shelton ’91 hosted the Pre- Law group. Joe is a partner in the Atlanta office of Fisher and Phillips LLC, and Andrea is an attorney and as well as president and founder of Heart Bound Ministries.  Alex Johnson ’07, an attorney at Gillis and Creasy LLC, and Bobby Baker ’79, a partner at Freeman, Mathis and Gary, also joined the group.

La Tasha Bellamy, a senior majoring in Communication and Rhetoric Studies, felt participating was well worth it. “Attending gave us the opportunity to connect with one another and meet new and such resourceful and amazingly talented people within our degree/career interests.”

Felisha Ellison, a sophomore studying Communication also enjoyed the evening. “I participated in the Communications Networking dinner and found it to be extremely rewarding,” said Ellison. “I learned much valuable information, and met many new knowledgeable contacts. Thank you so much for organizing and helping to provide this special event for Oglethorpe students. It was a wonderful opportunity!”

Look out for the next Career Take Out, planned for the spring 2013 semester!

Amy Clemente, MS, NCC is the Career Counselor at Oglethorpe’s Center for Experiential Learning.

Oglethorpe Alumnus Releases Solo Piano Album

John Burke, a 2011 Oglethorpe University graduate, released his first solo piano album this past fall. The OU Blog recently caught up with him to see how he managed to reach such a milestone so early in his career.

OU Blog: Congratulations on your new album!  Tell us about it.

John: The album came out in October. It’s called “Synesthesia” and my goal was to provoke a sense of colors through music. All songs are named after colors and the album has a psychological edge to it that tests your mind while you’re enjoying the music.

It’s an instrumental album and I wrote and composed all the tracks. It took me about a year and a half to complete it. I actually found my inspiration during a study abroad trip to Spain I took while at OU.

OU Blog: So, Oglethorpe helped your development as an artist?

John: Yes. I chose OU because of its size and tight knit community. Looking back, I do not see myself being anywhere else but OU. I majored in Spanish and minored in Music. I also sang in the choir. Oglethorpe made it easy for me to balance between full academic load and music practice by providing access to the piano room on campus. I was able to steal little increments of time between classes to practice. It is a great place to thrive.

OU Blog: How did your love for music begin?

John: It started during my senior year in high school. My friends and I started a rock-and-roll/blues band named “Vinyl”. I had no formal schooling in music before OU. I just listened to music and tried to apply it by ear.

OU Blog: Impressive! What was the first tune you learned on piano?

John: The first tune I learned must have been “Imagine” by John Lennon. My favorite thing to play now is George Winston, whom I consider to be the most influential pianist in my life.

OU Blog: What’s your dream stage to perform on? Dream duet?

John: I would love to perform at Carnegie Hall. And a dream duet would be with Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for The Doors—piano and organ.  And I would also love to compose an album for a blockbuster movie. I dream big. The sky is the limit.

OU Blog: You are obviously very talented. Do you have musical genes in your family?

John: My father is a musician; he currently leads and directs a band at church.  He is my role model and motivation, and I can honestly say that if it were not for him I would not be where I am today.

OU Blog: How often and for how long do you practice? What advice would you give beginner musicians?

John: I practice every day, on a good day between 2-4 hours. Beginners, and even those with experience, should not stop practicing and always try new things and different styles. Practice and variety help you grow as an artist.

OU Blog: Music is a big part of your life. Do you have any other musical initiatives?

John: Yes, I am a choir director at a church in Brookhaven, and I have also taught music theory, reading music and also piano. I would like to spend more time teaching music and sharing my passion for it. It is very rewarding to reveal the beauty of music to someone else.

The album is available at www.johnburkemusic.com. John’s music also airs on Best Smooth Jazz and Best Smooth Grooves, two radio stations in the United Kingdom. 

OU Alumni Board’s On-Campus Retreat a Success

A few weekends ago the campus was buzzing with activity. Perhaps you saw the lines of cars on Peachtree Road packed to the brim with enough furniture, clothes and school supplies to fill all the dorm rooms on campus multiple times over. Buried under it all, were our newest Petrels, ready to start the next chapter of their life.

A few more Petrels—not quite as new—were in the midst of this traffic as well, gathering for the Oglethorpe Alumni Board’s annual retreat held on campus that same day. Despite having to weave through the crowd of parents and freshmen, all members agreed that this year’s meeting was perfectly timed for such an exciting day on campus.

Should you hear the words, “annual retreat” and assume that our meeting was just a social gathering, I am here to report that new Alumni Board President Cleve Hill ’01 not only gave us homework before we arrived but sent us off with additional assignments once we adjourned! Nonetheless, there were no complaints to be heard as all members, ranging from the Class of 1958 to 2008 were excited to be back on campus and continue the exciting and rewarding work ahead of us.

Our meeting kicked off with reports from the Vice Presidents on the Board who each gave an update about their committee’s recent work and upcoming plans. We discussed Oglethorpe’s record breaking year for alumni giving, plans for alumni gatherings across the country, recent and upcoming contributions to the Carillon magazine, efforts surrounding admissions and how alums are continuing to attract the best and brightest students, and plans for various career networking events coming to campus. It was so exciting to hear all the new ideas, recent success stories, and plans for the future coming out of each committee.

During lunch, we were joined by another group of hard working alums—our class agents responsible for generating continued growth in alumni giving—and OU President Dr. Larry Schall, who discussed some new and exciting efforts and priorities for the future of the campus.

In addition to the full Board meetings, we were able to participate in various roundtable discussions. As a member of the Communications Committee, I joined in on a discussion related to how we could make the Carillon an even greater publication for all Oglethorpe alums. We came up with some GREAT ideas so be on the lookout for several new features!

Finally, the Alumni Weekend 2012 theme was revealed by the Events Committee.  Mark your calendars for April 26-29, 2012—you won’t want to miss this!!!

Being back on campus always makes me nostalgic and it is such a pleasure serving on the Alumni Board with so many committed and excited people who are all “making a life, making a living, making a difference.” I always come away from our gathering energized and so proud of my alma mater.

Photo above: Jodie Sexton Goff ’02 with Alumni Board President Cleve Hill ’01.

It’s Here!: The Latest Issue of the Carillon

The Fall 2010 Carillon features OU's newest sport, lacrosse.

Attention all OU alumni, parents, and friends—the newest issue of Oglethorpe’s Carillon magazine is here! Check your mailboxes for the fall 2010 issue of OU’s alumni magazine—or read it online

The athletics-themed edition’s cover story introduces lacrosse (“America’s oldest sport is set to become Oglethorpe University’s newest”) and details OU’s decision to field a team. 

Don’t miss “Sports Legacies”, featuring profiles of OU alumni who have made a lasting impact on the athletics program here at OU, and the profiles of several young alumni who’ve made careers out of their passion for sport.

Get to know the Class of 2014—and check out the Class Notes section to find out what’s been keeping other OU alumni busy throughout the year.

Happy reading!