Lope hits the road to celebrate GCU's family across the nation

Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Kaitlyn Nicol connects alumni to GCU through Lopes on the Road. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of GCU Magazine. Digital version

To Kaitlyn Nicol, the fun part about growing the Lopes on the Road program since its launch a little more than two years ago is not just that she gets to see the country.

It’s that she gets to organize events that bring together alumni from all corners of the U.S.

“One of my favorite parts of the job is to be able to be the connection to Grand Canyon University to people in these different states. Most of them are online grads, and their only connection to GCU was their computer screen,” said Nicol, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations. “We get to bring the GCU culture, the GCU purple.”

Nicol and Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving Cherylann Galdi this fall completed an East Coast swing to New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Jersey and had 150 alums signed up for each event – all games – Yankees, Phillies, Orioles and Devils.

They shipped out a lot of boxes of purple GCU shirts to meet them there. (“Everywhere we go, we bring our purple,” Nicol says).

“To bring them a T-shirt is a big deal. They get so excited. They put on the shirt immediately, and all their kids put on a shirt,” she said. “They can be part of something physically now – before it was all digitally.”

Nicol's favorite cities? Charlotte, North Carolina, and Orlando, Florida. Another cool stop: Hawaii (pictured). (Contributed photo)

Lopes on the Road relaunched as a formal campaign by Alumni Relations in August 2021, and Galdi says it’s a hit because it’s a perfect way for people to show their GCU pride in their own neighborhoods. Nicol was a good fit to grow the program with her event-planning and sports business experience. And she’s an alumna who said she had an amazing experience as a student, graduating with bachelor’s degrees in sports and entertainment management and marketing and advertising in 2020.

“Absolutely everything she does in her role comes from a place of love for GCU,” Galdi said.

Lopes on the Road has held events in 19 states, and the participation keeps growing. Twice as many came to the event this year in Philadelphia, among the cities with a large alumni population. And events in Phoenix have grown even more, with some that attracted 200 people now hosting more than a 1,000.

Nicol has decorated her office at GCU with postcards from many of the locations she and the Alumni Office have visited on trips. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

“The events we are inviting people to they love, and we subsidize the cost; alumni get a 50% discount,” she said.

Sporting events are a popular choice, and baseball always has been an ideal game because there is time to visit with other alumni between innings. For example, 250 showed up for the Texas Rangers game near Dallas.

But she also studies the demographics of alums in the area, and if it’s heavily families, there might be a zoo event. (Zoo Lights in Phoenix draws more than 3,000). If it skews younger, it might be happy hour.

“You get a feel for the different cultures of what people like and don’t like and how they communicate,” Nicol said.

She’s come to love Atlanta for its warm welcomes and Southern hospitality.

“Our alumni in Atlanta love GCU. They rave about their experience, they rave about each other. We have alumni who have met at an event and now do things together and watch GCU basketball games together.”

Georgia, along with California and Texas, is one of the big alumni hubs. But Nicol has favorites for other reasons, too. Flanking her desk is a bulletin board with postcards she collects from all the destinations. Waikiki Beach? “We have a ton of alumni in Hawaii. We did a watch party and had 180 attend.”

Lopes on the Road also often travels for GCU road games, setting up tailgates, spreading the love for the Lopes. (In San Diego last spring, six different alums wanted to set up GCU watch parties for the Lopes game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament).

We get to bring the GCU culture, the GCU purple.

Kaitlyn Nicol, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations

Nicol’s other personal favorite cities are also in the southeast U.S., including Charlotte, North Carolina, and Orlando, Florida. She knows all the best places to go, eat and stay. “I’ve become that friend,” said Nicol, who had only been on an airplane five times before this job, having grown up in Chandler, and now has PreCheck.

Ultimately, Lopes on the Road hopes to connect people more closely to GCU so when they think about giving to the University or when they want an advanced degree or a relative needs a recommendation for a good college to attend, they think of GCU.

But to Nicol, who seems to wear a smile wherever she goes, the reward is still in those personal moments when she can talk to alumni, who often are shocked that so many fellow Lopes are right in their city.

“I firmly believe that everyone should feel celebrated,” she said of attaining a GCU degree.

“They have four kids, they are working a job and they got their master’s. They don’t have the recognition we have here (on campus).”

So Nicol tells them, “Congratulations. Here is a shirt. Here are the people who did it with you.

"It's a cool role we get to have, reminding them, 'You did it!'"

***

Related content:

GCU News: These graduates love GCU and can't leave it

GCU News: International travel a welcome departure for GCU alumni

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

(Moses addressed Israel, reminding them of God's deliverance of them from Egypt, and His commands given to them:) "You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out (from bondage and delivered you.). The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear." (Deuteronomy 7:19)

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