The new happy hour

lgbtalumni.jpgWhether you're a recent graduate or an emeritus, chances are you've been invited to a U of C happy hour. One of the most common type of alumni events, they are usually planned for alumni of a certain generation or region, but a recent trend has some of the guest lists getting more creative.

For example, when 50-some alumni gathered at the North Side bar Sidetrack last Wednesday, they weren't all members of the same College class, nor all "young alumni." Instead, all were LGBT alumni, members of a new "affinity" group that have self-identified to the Alumni Association.

Affinity groups cross geographic, generational, and University boundaries. Some, like the Life Sciences and Law Alumni groups, include alumni working in a given professional field, regardless of the school or division from which they received their University degree. Others, like the LGBT group, the Association of Black Alumni, and the Chicago Women's Alliance, are identity-based.

Since the outreach effort began last year, dozens of alumni volunteers have signed up to take leadership roles in the groups. Event turnout has also been strong: over 120 alumni attended the LGBT Alumni launch event last October, and Life Sciences events in New York have been regularly drawing over 100. The new affinity groups will also be well represented at Alumni Weekend, June 3-6, with events planned for LGBT Alumni and the Association of Black Alumni.

"It's all about finding new ways to connect alumni to the University," said Eric Rogers, AB'05, AM'07, assistant director for affinity groups at the Alumni Association. "Your connection to the University isn't just about nostalgia; it should help you in your professional life, your social life, and your intellectual life today."

Kyle Gorden, AB'00

Alumni at LGBT Happy Hour. Photography by Eric Rogers.

May 10, 2010