Honors College Alumni Board connects, educates

Cathleen Daly, who earned GCU degrees in 2017 and 2020, is one of the members of the Honors College's new Alumni Board.

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau

As Grand Canyon University’s Honors College approaches its 10-year anniversary, it continues to use advisory boards to shape its professional programs, volunteering experiences and networking events.

Now it has a new one.

The Honors College Alumni Board has joined the Dean's Advisory Board and the Student Advisory Board to create a trifecta of perspectives and feedback to help the college embody its five core values: ethics, research, service, leadership and cultural awareness.

Associate Dean Dr. Breanna Naegeli believes this “tri-level support system” plays a pivotal role in the program’s continued development.

“Having representation from all three groups has been exceptionally valuable as it allows our administration to gather actionable and relevant insight from various perspectives," she said. "I am so blessed to have the humble-hearted and service-focused alumni base that we do, and I thoroughly enjoy collaborating with them as we work to develop the vibrant student experience available within the Honors College.”

John Varkey, who is completing his master's at Notre Dame, is also a member of the Alumni Board.

Members of the new Alumni Board gathered virtually recently to reconnect and share some of the life lessons they’ve learned since graduating. That feedback will be used to design new programs for existing students.

“Service, mentorship and giving back in support of the next generation of graduates is a concept deeply interwoven throughout the fabric of GCU’s community,” Naegeli said. “Our alumni board is an exemplary representation of that – they are always seeking new opportunities to engage and support the up-and-coming students of the GCU Honors College.”

For John Varkey, 2020 Honors electrical engineering graduate and Alumni Board member, it was a chance to use his experiences to benefit others.

Since graduating amid the pandemic, Varkey has refused to be slowed down. He's working on his master’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Notre Dame, and graduate school preparation is a topic at the forefront of his mind -- specifically, linking undergraduate students interested in going to graduate school with graduate students who can help prepare them.

“I was lost the entire process and figured it out as I went along,” he said of his graduate school experience. “That required so much work, so I really want to help out other students who want to go to graduate school and want to further their career that way.”

In addition to suggestions for current Honors students, the Alumni Board also works as a resource for recent graduates to find their footing.

Carson Foley, who graduated in December with his marketing degree, is the most recent grad on the board.

Carson Foley is the most recent graduate on the Alumni Board.

“Something I think would be really important is, how can we connect recent Honors alumni -- the people who graduated from the Honors College in the last three years -- to other Honors alumni in a more effective manner?” he said. “As Honors students, we really enjoy the fact that we could meet other Honors College students on campus, and that was a huge part of our college experience. But it’s about taking that beyond GCU and how we can connect Honors students after they’ve graduated.

“That’s a lot of what the Alumni Board does, is speak into those ideas of how we can connect students, current and past.”

Board members include alumni from a variety of fields and industries, some of whom have more than one connection to the Honors College.

After graduating with her bachelor’s in communications in 2017, Cathleen Daly found herself back at her alma mater as she filled several full-time roles in the Honors College. In 2020, she graduated with her master’s in public administration before accepting her current position as a marketing specialist for Wanzek Construction. She also runs her own blog, “Discovering Daly.”

Joining the Alumni Board allowed her to stay connected for her fellow alumni as well her former colleagues in the college.

“I definitely see myself being involved for a very long time,” Daly said. “The school, and the Honors College, just gave me so much that has helped me throughout my career, and my personal life, too, that I just want to give back in any way that I can.”

Since graduating with her bachelor's, Cathleen Daly has continued to be an active member in the Honors College community. She's speaking here at the fall 2021 PAC session.

She hopes to use her time on the board to help current GCU students reflect on their time in their undergraduate programs while also learning to balance the different factors of their identity.

“Another alumni member had mentioned that once you get into your career, you kind of build this identity around what you do for work,” she said. “Especially being young adults and young professionals, it’s about trying to balance your work identity but also your other identities outside of work.”

Between industry professionals, current students and now alumni, the resources available via the college’s different boards are essential to helping the continued evolution of the Honors College.

And Naegeli couldn’t be more excited.

“We are really excited to work with all of our different groups,” Naegeli said. “We really do take in all of this feedback to see what we can do to build the strongest program possible. It’s not just what I think will be beneficial. They have to feel that it’s beneficial, too, and having access to these three groups is a big advantage for us."

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


Related content:

GCU Today: Alum connects with forensic psychology students

GCU Today: Honors students give back by building bunk beds

GCU Today: PAC program graduates raise bar at awards dinner


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