Development & Alumni Relations Office 

GRADUATE ASSOCIATIONS AND NETWORKS – CELEBRATING QUEEN’S VOLUNTEERSFour participants - 3 feamle, one male - taking part in online association meeting against Volunteers' Week backdrop of colourful hands

02 June 2021

Continuing the celebrations for Volunteers’ Week at Queen’s (1- 7 June), we acknowledge those who help to run our alumni networks, and who provide an important connection between the University and our graduates around the world.

During this week and across a number of different volunteering areas, Queen’s is focusing on some of the many hundreds of graduates who, during the last 12 months, have given their time in support of the University. You can find out more about volunteering as an alumni here.

Today, we acknowledge and thank all those who participate in the running and governance of our alumni associations and chapters, by serving on committees, organising events and keeping graduates in touch with the University and each other.   

Once they leave Queen’s many graduates miss the buzz of the campus and keeping up with the life of the University. They want to connect and network with other former students where they live and work, and to maintain connections with their alma mater. Often, the best way of doing just this is by joining an alumni association or chapter.

“Our associations bridge the gap between alumni and the University,” said Natasha Sharma, Alumni Relations Volunteer Manager (pictured above, top right), “and our chapters all over the world mean that you are never very far from the Queen’s family.”

Associations are run entirely by volunteers, who take up the challenge of providing members with an events programme that is varied and engaging, and designed to make it easy to stay in touch. Activities range from formal ‘black-tie’ dinners to informal receptions and from lectures to social days – and evenings – out.

“Though the current lockdown does impose restrictions on physical events, details of planned future events – including a number of online/virtual activities – can be found on our events page,” added Natasha.

The main Northern Ireland-based alumni network is the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA). With a membership in excess of 900, the QGA is open to all graduates and final year students of the University and offers a busy and varied programme of events, including the prestigious annual Charter Day Dinner.

To hear current QGA President, Victoria Denoon (pictured above, top left), explain why she volunteers for Queen’s, click on the image below.

Victoria Denoon, President of the QGA says:

"COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on all of us and we will be feeling the effects for some time to come, however, one of nice things to have come out of how we have responded to the pandemic has been a focus on staying connected and checking in on each other albeit virtually for the most part. Staying connected is what being a member of the QGA is all about and keeping those connections going is something I hope we can continue for the foreseeable future.

"This has been important for the QGA to try and keep as many annual activities as possible going. Some of the things we have delivered over the past year include continuing to award our student scholarships, sending out a quarterly email; sponsoring Christmas lunches for students living in halls; an online quiz and our first ever virtually conducted Annual General Meeting."

And just last week on 25 May, the Queen’s Graduates’ Association hosted a virtual panel discussion event for student volunteers on the “Inspiring Leaders Programme, Jump In", to discuss the importance of mentorship and building networks.

Speaking on the panel was QGA’s current President, Victoria Denoon (top left); Convocation Committee Member and previous President of the QGA, Feargus McCauley (bottom right); QWG Former President, Leighanne Montgomery (bottom left); and Alumni Relations Volunteering Manager, Natasha Sharma (top right). Inspiring Leaders is a skills development programme for students volunteering in positions of leadership. The panel discussed how networking and the right mentor can play a crucial role in helping young people secure the right job and assist career advancement.

In addition to the QGA there are a number of other graduate associations, including Queen’s Women Graduates (QWG), who last week on 27 May hosted a storytelling event for their members with Northern Irish children's writer and storyteller, Liz Weir. An Antrim-based storyteller with an international reputation, Liz graduated from Queen's in English, French and Spanish before completing a postgraduate diploma in Library and Information Studies. She is the author of over twenty books and has just completed her memoir, Storywoman. In 2019, she was awarded an MBE for services to the arts and education.

Other associations have been busy engaging with graduates around the UK; London (QUAL) hosted their Annual Golf Day at Beaconsfield Golf Club on 21 May, and Scotland (QUAS) continue to have monthly virtual coffee catch-ups to stay connected. The most recent one took place on 25 May. There are also branches in Dublin (QUAD) the US, China and the Middle East and in Asia, all of which are led by committees of passionate volunteers who care deeply about Queen's. 

QUAAM was acknowledged five years ago for its role in supporting staff and students on visits to Malaysia – including providing a delegation of 25 students with a tour of Kuala Lumpur and an introduction to Asian cuisine – for supporting student recruitment initiatives in country and for advising Queen’s staff on cultural issues. The Association was also recognised for fundraising for the McClay Library at Queen’s and for supporting the Students’ Malaysian Society at the University.

“It was a real honour for the QUAAM Committee to win the Volunteer of the Year Award back in 2016. It was wonderful recognition of the work of the Association and, for individual committee members like me it is a reminder that volunteering time to maintain links with local graduates and with the University, is always appreciated by Queen’s.”

Finally, for those who want to play a more active part in the life of the University, there is also Convocation. Set up by statute and with representation on Senate, the University’s governing body, all graduates (and several senior members of staff of the University) are automatically members of Convocation.

Regular business is handled by a Standing Committee, with the assistance of the Clerk of Convocation and there is an opportunity for graduates to stand for election at the Annual Meeting (usually held in November) and to volunteer their time and services to Convocation. Issues discussed and agreed at the Annual Meeting can be brought to Senate by the Chairman.   

“Our associations, alumni chapters and Convocation all offer ways for graduates to volunteer their time and to play an active part in the life of the University,” said Natasha.

“For those graduates who get involved in Queen’s in this way,” she continued, “volunteering offers great networking opportunities and in most cases it has a really positive impact on the individual’s mental health and wellbeing.

“And the more involved you are, the greater the rewards!” she added.

For further details on joining a Queen’s graduate association visit our website. If you would like information on joining the committee of your local association please contact Alumni Relations Volunteering Manager, Natasha Sharma.

For general enquiries about this story or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast.



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