Staying Connected in the Pandemic

Five volunteer leaders reflect on lessons learned—and new opportunities

illustration of people on a Zoom call

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel! Pennsylvania’s slowly opening up and vaccinations are rolling. In thinking about that light, I asked five volunteer leaders from our most active groups to answer two questions: How have you seen the alumni network pull together? What opportunities do you see for Fall 2021? Here’s what they’re thinking:

My Lehigh friends have sustained me through monthly Zooms, a long-distance holiday gift exchange and active group chats. In some ways we are talking more than we would any other time!

We’re all learning how much community and togetherness makes a difference in our lives, and we’re hoping to be able to provide that connection as we reemerge. We’re looking forward to re-engaging our LAPA volunteers and offering some new opportunities to expand our reach and membership.

—Chris Diggs ’07 M.Ed ’08, Lehigh Alumni Pride Association

The Young Alumni Council has been more connective, supportive and engaged than ever. Many of my fellow young alumni understand the difficult job market students are entering and want to support them in any way they can. We’ve had great success using LinkedIn and Lehigh Connects to enable those connections.

We also realize we have a huge opportunity to incorporate lessons-learned from the remote environment: Why does returning to campus need to be a requirement for leadership meetings and other engagement, when the pandemic has shown that we can be just as productive and connected through Zoom? We’re feeling empowered and optimistic about creating more equitable, inclusive and expansive engagement opportunities in the future.

Bo Johns ’13, Young Alumni Council

The Senior Alumni Council is translating our signature biannual “Back to the Classroom” program into a virtual one, with five Zoom sessions over five weeks. We’re attracting a larger and more geographically diverse pool of attendees, so we may decide to do one virtual session/year and one in-person. The SAC sends birthday cards to older alumni, and we’ve continued that.

Our population still very much values (and very much misses!) being on campus and interacting with fellow alumni, students and speakers, so we will continue our in-person events and resume our roles as front-desk ambassadors in Alumni Memorial as soon as we can!

—Mark Shiner ’77, president, Senior Alumni Council

The pandemic has shed further light on deeply rooted economic, social and health disparities that disproportionately impact communities of color. As a result of the urgency of this moment, alumni of color, with the support of BALANCE, have stepped up to support Black and brown students and alumni who are looking for opportunities to connect, collaborate and engage. They have participated in insightful dialogues about equity, created new opportunities for mentorship, led teaching seminars and called on Lehigh to continue shifting from “diversity and inclusion” toward equity and justice.

As we look to Fall 2021, BALANCE will be calling on our members to serve in leadership roles within BALANCE and across the university so that we can better leverage our energy, power and ideas. We also invite others to reach out to us so that we can collaborate and grow together.

—Mario Paredes ’11, Black and Latinx Alumni Network for Community and Equity (BALANCE)

The 23 LUAA Board Members have reached out to dozens of individual alumni and students, and collectively we accounted for 400 registrations at more than 50 events and activities. We’ve hosted many virtual events such as Welcoming the Incoming Class of 2024; Regional Club meetings; the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Forum; Town Hall with former LUAA Board Directors; and the Founder’s Day Celebration.

We learned a great deal from the pandemic environment and will continue to conduct virtual events where they hold the greatest potential. But we’re really looking forward to seeing alumni and celebrating our Lehigh traditions face to face!

—Gary Chan ’80, president, Lehigh University Alumni Association

Amen to that Gary—I can’t wait to see you all soon! Until then, I’m always happy to hear from you. Email me at or follow me on Twitter @jenlynham.


Jennifer Cunningham
Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations


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