Fostering Connections Between Black Alumni and Students
Kylin Ellison MS ‘18, is the new co-chair of the USF Black Alumni Society. She shares her passion for giving back, and discusses her goals as co-chair to strengthen the community of Black alumni and students at USF.
How and when did you get involved with the Black Alumni Society (BAS)?
I’ve been part of the BAS for around two and a half years now. I met Kibibi Shaw '15, who's the other co-chair, the summer before I started my master's program at USF. USF hosted a get together at a Giants game. So I showed up by myself, and Kibibi was there; I found out she was an alumna graduating from the Master in Organization Development program. She and I connected through the program and stayed connected throughout my time at USF. Then during the pandemic, I got a message from her saying that they were trying to revive the BAS. I joined the board, not really understanding what it was or knowing that it existed. Since then I've been serving on the board for the last couple of years. Before you know it, Sanya Hill Maxion '81, our previous chair, had stepped down and created this opportunity for a new co-chair.
As incoming co-chair for the Black Alumni Society, what are your hopes for the future of the group? What are your priorities?
One of our main priorities are the students. I had a fantastic time as a master's student at USF. I already had a couple of years of work experience under my belt, and I want to make sure that all of the Black students coming through USF have a similar experience and they feel like they are set up for success upon graduation. That is one of the biggest missions of the BAS.
My hope in being co-chair is that the organization is able to revive and build enough of a community to where it acts as a support system for graduating students and students still in their programs.
I also think that there's a hunger, if you will, from the Black alumni population for community. There are so many USF Black alumni who live in the Bay Area that don't even know each other. My desire is to bring those people back in and create opportunities for healing and connection, because there's just so much power in the networks that we build in the community that we build.
My desire is to bring those people back in and create opportunities for healing and connection, because there's just so much power in the networks that we build in the community that we build."
— Kylin Ellison MS ‘18
How does the Black Alumni Society use NetworkUSF as a platform to create professional guidance and opportunities for USF students?
NetworkUSF is an interesting tool because it is the only connection point where you know that everyone is a USF alum. So it ends up being a great opportunity for existing students to have a direct line to alumni. On NetworkUSF I often get connected to students who are curious about career paths, resume writing, how to build a network, and who want to get to know folks that have an interesting career path. BAS uses NetworkUSF quite a bit to share information about upcoming events and make sure that it's known to student populations, and particularly student populations of color. At the end of the day, the whole purpose behind BAS is to provide a support system to the Black students at USF, and so having that direct line is really important.
At the end of the day, the whole purpose behind BAS is to provide a support system to the Black students at USF, and so having that direct line is really important."
— Kylin Ellison MS ‘18
What are some of the ways that the Black Alumni Society has strengthened its community?
Honestly, when I joined there really wasn't a community because the BAS had died off so much due to the pandemic. But we've gained a lot of traction in the last year; Kibibi's network has been really powerful, and the number of people that she has been able to connect with BAS and the number of people who she's gotten excited about the initiative has been really wonderful to see. I think at that point, once you've kind of got people's attention, participation and showing up is the biggest part of it. For example, we did the Black Joy Parade a few months ago, and seeing the combination of alumni that graduated 20 years ago, alumni that graduated five years ago, and current students all come together – is beautiful. That is our dream when it comes to creating community, we're fostering connections between people who have so many more experiences ahead of them, and people who have answers and lots of lived experience.
Why would you encourage alumni to join the Black Alumni Society?
Community is important both at a human level, and from a cultural perspective, there's so many things to celebrate about the Black community. I think that Black people really feel their best and do their best when there is a community surrounding them.
BAS has been a unique opportunity for me to do philanthropic work and give back to a community that I care about. It's an opportunity to stay connected with students and with USF, while having the flexibility to give where and when I can. The nice thing about BAS is that there is no requirement that you must show up to everything or fulfill a specific time commitment.
It's beautiful to see Black adults that are educated in this space, and actively thinking about how we can give back and build up our community.
Join the Black Alumni Society on NetworkUSF to learn more about upcoming events and how you can help build up the community.