Alyssa Todaro Brooks, PhD '15 (president) and Dena Gregory Fisher BS '97 (vice president) at the 2019 Volunteer Leadership Conference. Photo credit: Lisa Helfert

Alyssa Todaro Brooks, PhD '15 (president) and Dena Gregory Fisher BS '97 (vice president) at the 2019 Volunteer Leadership Conference. Photo credit: Lisa Helfert

December 4, 2019

What do a former ballroom dancing champion, a CEO, a professor and a wine connoisseur have in common?

They all volunteer on the executive board of the University of Maryland School of Public Health's now award-winning Alumni Network.

"They all have jobs and families and other extracurricular things going on, but they prioritize service and leadership to the School of Public Health," said the network's president, Alyssa Todaro Brooks, PhD ’15.

And that dedication has paid off.

On Friday, November 15, the network received the Emerging Network of the Year Award at the 2019 Volunteer Leadership Conference. The award, given by the University of Maryland Alumni Association, recognizes the outstanding service and leadership of a recently established or reestablished network or new volunteer.

After a period of low activity, the network revitalized in early 2017 thanks in part to increased support from the University of Maryland Alumni Association. Through challenges including low event attendance and ill-timed hurricanes in their early years, the network persevered, learning to celebrate each small success.

"This award is validation that we're moving in the right direction," said Brooks.

Now made up of more than 10 alumni and at-large board members, the network has held an assortment of events that give students, alumni and faculty opportunities to connect. They've partnered with Gymkana to celebrate their home show, held lectures, hosted Maryland basketball game watches and facilitated happy hours and other social events.

But Brooks says the network's mentoring program is their most significant accomplishment.

Launched in 2017, the School of Public Health Alumni Network mentorship program pairs undergraduate students with alumni based on career interests and areas of expertise. This year the program supported 27 parings and 54 participants. 

"It always makes me happy to hear of success stories from mentor/mentee pairings and how they've influenced a student's career trajectories and offered support and encouragement," said Brooks.

The Network has also spent the last two years building a foundation for its future. 

"The things we are doing now and the processes that we're putting into place will serve the future board and the school for a really long time to come," said Brooks.

For now, they're taking time to celebrate this award, but their work isn't over.

In 2020, the network will focus on building collaborations with other University of Maryland alumni networks and facilitating more creative events and initiatives. And if you are among the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s alumni, you will have the chance to join their ranks—the network will open applications for new board members in early 2020.

“The School of Public Health gave so much to each of us, and to feel like we're playing a small part in giving back is a huge motivator,” Brooks said about being a network leader.

If you would like to get involved as a volunteer or serve on the SPH Alumni Network executive board, please contact Fabian Donate at fdonate@umd.edu