Alumni team keeps recent grads connected to GCU

September 17, 2019 / by / 0 Comment

The GCU Alumni office staff now includes (from left) Brianna Bell, Marketing and Communications Specialist; Bryanna Slattery, Program and Events Specialist; and Karsten Kem, Alumni Relations and Engagement Manager. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the August 2019 issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version, click here

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU Magazine

When Karsten Kem first came to Grand Canyon University as a freshman, he had one thing in mind: He wanted to get involved. “I dove right into campus,” he said. “I was so excited to come here.”

He didn’t waste any time following through on that goal. He worked on the intramural staff. He became a Resident Assistant. He joined the Havocs, GCU’s nationally acclaimed student cheer section, and eventually was named president of the group before graduating in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Economics.

The Cave Creek, Ariz., native then transitioned from student to full-time employee, and this year he was named Alumni Relations and Engagement Manager. Again, he’s not wasting any time pursuing his goal: He wants other alumni to remain engaged with their alma mater, too.

“The community aspect of GCU is just so big, and that’s why I ultimately wanted to end up working here,” he said.

The hiring of such a high-profile graduate has brought to the Alumni office his knowledge of the campus, his love for what it’s all about, a fresh perspective and, not insignificantly, some Havocs-fueled enthusiasm.

There certainly is room to grow. In just three years, the number of alumni has jumped from 100,000 to more than 150,000.

“He’s come in with a lot of really great ideas, and I think that’s been really awesome – to have some fresh perspectives on things,” said Bryanna Slattery, the department’s Program and Events Specialist and also a GCU grad.

Those new ideas, coupled with the many activities the department already offers, will have one goal in mind:

“We need to serve our alums, give them stuff to do and have them stay connected,” Kem said. “That’s kind of my big vision for the department.”

Some of the new features include improvements to the Lopes on the Road program, multiday events for alumni at the Western Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas and expanding alumni chapters to new locations.

Lopes on the Road will continue to offer free food and free tickets to selected away games, but Kem’s office is working to make it bigger and better than ever by reaching out to parents of students, online students, faculty and prospective students in addition to alumni in each area.

“It’s a great way to support the University but also get connected with those outside of the Phoenix area,” Kem said. “We’re making sure our department has a national footprint.”

The WAC Basketball Tournament has become the biggest road gathering of the year for students and alumni alike, and Kem’s staff wants to make sure the alums feel more welcome than ever. A wide range of fun activities are being planned for the multiday event.

GCU alumni chapters, managed by Slattery, have been formed in Phoenix, Houston and Seattle, and she hopes to create one in Las Vegas as well. Each chapter is individually run but reports back to Kem’s office.

“They all do really well attendance-wise,” he said. “Right now we’re in the process of kind of bolstering that moving forward, allowing for opportunities for them to stay connected and support the University.”

Even with all the new ideas circulating around the department, Slattery said, the staff also wants to keep what has proved highly successful, such as the alumni tailgates before home games.

“I think a lot of what we’re doing is kind of maintaining what we’ve done before but finding ways to revamp them that makes them more pertinent for right now,” she said. “As far as what we’ve done in the past, we’re just finding ways to make it more relevant and more fun. We’re definitely sticking true to our roots while trying some new things.”

Slattery believes the new ideas within the department will help engage alumni earlier and make the transition from student to active alum smoother. But members of the Alumni Relations staff aren’t the only ones excited to see what’s in store for graduates.

Noah Wolfe, the 2018-19 president of the Associated Students of GCU, is another former student who has stayed at the University as an employee … and wants to remain involved via alumni activities.

“It’s been really cool to work closely with our alumni team, Karsten Kem and other individuals as well, because I get to see how much of an effort is put into making sure our alumni stay engaged and excited about what’s happening,” he said.

“I think it’s been really cool to see that there’s a level of commitment to students beyond just being a student here on campus.”

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]


Click here to find out how alumni can stay engaged.


Related content:

GCU Today: Spirit of Lopes on the Road focuses on fun

GCU Today: Supporting evidence: Lopes on the Road a success

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