Kansas University's black alumni can be more involved and at least more aware these days about activities that are occurring on campus and elsewhere.
That's because of the efforts of the KU Black Alumni Chapter and its umbrella organization, the KU Alumni Association.
It's been a little more than a year since what was once the Black Alumni Organization joined with the KU Alumni Association, forming a special chapter focusing on black graduates. The joint effort has worked well, said Jimmy Banks, the Black Alumni Chapter's president.
"Our relationship with the Alumni Association was good before, and it continues to get better," Banks said.
Joining up with the Alumni Association has allowed the Black Chapter to extend its reach to black graduates scattered across the country more easily and in a more organized way. Previously, the Black Chapter had to sometimes rely on secondhand information to find those scattered graduates and on members to forward information on their own.
No longer. The Alumni Association has e-mail addresses and other information about most alumni, and the Black Chapter is able to make use of that database. Also, anyone who is black and becomes a member of the Alumni Association is added to the Black Chapter. Most recently there were nearly 7,000 people associated with the Black Chapter.
"We are able to get our news out nationally," Banks said. "It has really helped us to disseminate information to a greater extent than we did before."
Through the Alumni Association, the Black Chapter also has its own Web page link. That Web site also has news and events listings and a photo gallery of the past year's activities, such as those the chapter sponsors during KU's homecoming week. The chapter's Black Alumni weekend this year will be Oct. 6-7, which coincides with the homecoming weekend.
The Black Chapter is still getting organized as far as establishing various committees and committee leaderships, Banks said. One of the chapter's main goals continues to be to recruit members with the Alumni Association, he said.
The transition from its own association to a chapter of the Alumni Association has caused a student mentoring program to be placed on hold, Banks said. Under that program, black alumni workers will talk with students about courses they need or help them make the transition into the working world after graduation. The program also needs an administrator who is on or close to campus, said Banks, who once tried to mentor students long distance from his home in Charlotte, N.C.
"There has been some discussion about resurrecting that program again, and that's something we want to do," said Banks, a 1978 KU graduate.
The Black Alumni Organization initially was formed in 1976 but some years later fell dormant. It was resurrected in 2002, and last year it became a chapter within the Alumni Association.