The Kansas University Alumni Association now has a chapter devoted exclusively to serving the university's black graduates.
The Black Alumni Chapter of the association grew out of the root's of KU's Black Alumni Organization, which was a separate organization until May.
"They're us now," said Kevin Corbett, president of the alumni association. "We're all in the same boat. And we're really happy about it."
Jimmy Banks, a 1978 KU graduate who spearheaded the revival of the black alumni organization in 2002 and shepherded its entry into the alumni association, said the affiliation would give black KU graduates a chance to give back to the university.
"I think it's important to get as many alumni, period, involved," Banks said. "The university benefits from alumni providing financial support to the university, but also support to students."
The idea for the original association originated during a KU football game in 1975, where Jim Dumas and Mike Shinn discussed the dearth of black alumni participation in the Kansas University Alumni Association. The men decided KU had not actively sought participation by its black alumni - an oversight corrected with the creation of the Black Alumni Organization in 1976.
The group fell dormant for some years but was revived in 2002.
In addition to increasing black alumni involvement with KU, the group aims to support the recruitment and retention of new black students at KU and to help black students academically.
The organization has career day programs and career fairs during KU's Homecoming festival. During the 2002-03 school year, it began the KU Black Alumni Mentoring Program, which matches alumni with undergrad and grad students. Students in the program are chosen with the help of KU's Black Faculty and Staff Council.
"That's something students need, is for somebody in the working world to talk about courses they need to take, and also about how to make the transition to the working world," Banks said.
Teresa Clounch, past president of the Black Faculty and Staff Council, agreed.
"We want our students to be successful when they leave here, and the mentoring program is part of it," she said.
Banks said that, in recent years, the black alumni group had between 30 and 40 members. Those numbers should grow now that the group will have access to the alumni association's database of graduates.
"It offers a lot of support in terms of really helping us with mailings to our members," Banks said. "In the past, we had to rely on disseminating information via e-mail to 100, 150 alumni whose e-mail addresses we had. Obviously, there's a lot more alumni out there."