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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

New Alumni Relations Leader Wants to Foster Relationships Between Monarch Generations

By Brendan O'Hallarn

The Old Dominion University football team landed a prize recruit a few years ago, but she won't be suiting up on Saturdays.

Joy Jefferson started work in January as Old Dominion's associate vice president for alumni relations. A 21-year employee of Hampton University, most recently as vice president for external relations, Jefferson was quite familiar with the large university on the Peninsula.

But when Jefferson attended a football game at Old Dominion a few years ago, her understanding of the University changed.

"The energy was overwhelming, and it spread through the whole campus. It was so thrilling and awesome to witness," she said. "I never forgot it, and told myself I wished I could experience this every day."

After making the move across the water to Old Dominion, Jefferson has found a lot of that energy on campus, and in interactions with alumni around the region and the country. "The pride and love that our alumni have for this University is really contagious," she said.

Jefferson grew up in Hampton Roads. As a middle school student and teenager, she attended camps and field trips on the Old Dominion campus. Like many alums who have been away for several years, she is blown away by the growth of the Norfolk campus.

"The transformation really is amazing. And it's not just the physical presence. Old Dominion University impacts the entire community," she said.

Vice President for University Advancement Alonzo Brandon said Old Dominion is fortunate to have Jefferson leading alumni efforts. "Joy has a breadth of experience throughout university advancement, from media relations, to fund-raising, to alumni affairs," Brandon said. "She is also a local resident, and knows the people here in Hampton Roads. She was ready for this job."

Though she has been in her position for fewer than two months, Jefferson has tried to meet as many alumni as possible. She sees a common thread in all of her interactions: Pride.

"The people I have spoken with all have such incredible pride in their University. They remember their time at ODU fondly, and they want to help make it better," Jefferson said.

That's where she and her staff come in, she said. Starting with providing opportunities to come back to campus, whether for a football game or to guest lecture in a class, Jefferson wants alumni to transform their pride in their alma mater into activities that can help advance the University's goals.

"My goal is to help build the Alumni Association, to engage more people with ODU and to provide better experiences for them that will help provide a lifetime link between alumni and the University," she said. One of those ideas, planning for joint trips by Old Dominion alumni, has received an enthusiastic response. Jefferson said more than 200 alums responded to an email gauging interest in an Alumni Association trip to Europe. "We're hoping to do more of these events," she said.

While these actions can help foster increased connectedness to their alma mater, Jefferson ultimately hopes that this alumni engagement encourages the creation of more scholarships for current and future students.

"Supporting more students to come to college through scholarships is one of the best ways they can help," Jefferson said. "Creating a legacy where their children can come to ODU can be the ultimate way to give back, and will help grow the next generation of Monarchs."

And these are ones that football coach Bobby Wilder doesn't even have to recruit.

For more information about the Old Dominion University Alumni Association, visit www.odualumni.org.