As the new semester unfolds, the Virginia Tech campus comes to life with students eager to return to in-person classes. But Robyn Stuart knows that classroom learning isn’t the only component to a fulfilling college experience. By connecting university alumni back to their alma mater, she’s helping to enrich the education of current students with opportunities for career connections, experiential learning, and financial security.
As the new director of alumni relations in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, she oversees programming, events, and outreach efforts to foster strong relationships between the college and its more than 60,000 alumni.
While an undergraduate at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Stuart held a work-study position in the University Events office, which gave her a firsthand look into the world of university advancement from the viewpoint of both students and staff.
“I’ve always understood the impact that advancement can have on the opportunities for current and future students,” Stuart said. “So being able to work for students in that way has been really fulfilling for me.”
After completing her master’s degree in student affairs at the same university, Stuart worked as assistant director of student activities at Alvernia University in Pennsylvania. Then, when she and her husband moved to Virginia in 2014, she explored other facets of higher education. Her focus shifted away from student affairs when she joined Virginia Tech as a special events coordinator for the university advancement team. Then, in 2018, she became the assistant director of alumni relations in the College of Engineering.
After three years in that position, Stuart was drawn to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences with the prospect of finding even more opportunities to support the university and its students. She also found the mission of the college and the vision of its dean, Laura Belmonte, compelling.
“Seeing Dean Belmonte come on board with her excitement and enthusiasm along with her strong leadership skills was definitely appealing,” Stuart said.
After witnessing the growth of the College of Engineering during her years there, Stuart is excited to watch the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences grow along its own path, especially during a time of rapid change in higher education. For Stuart, the landscape of online interaction during the pandemic has created opportunities to connect with alumni in new ways.
“For several years there had been a desire to engage with alumni virtually, but there just wasn’t a lot of skill or knowledge in that area,” she said. “And then COVID happened and now we’re all Zoom experts.”
Stuart said that the expansion of virtual content has made it easier to reach out to alumni all over the world. She looks forward to being able to host programming both virtually and in person.
“We are thrilled to have Robyn as part of the college’s advancement team,” said Holly Kobia, assistant dean for advancement in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “Her experience in engaging with alumni of the university, along with her event planning skills and marketing and communications background, makes her a perfect fit for this college. Most important, our alumni will benefit from additional programming and new ways to stay connected with the college and Virginia Tech.”
Since starting her new role, Stuart has enjoyed getting to know the college, its range of academic programs, and its alumni. For her, the breadth of career paths that alumni have followed means she can collect a diversity of powerful stories to share with students.
“It’s important to me,” she said, “to leave a legacy for our students to go out and change the world.”
Written by Mary Crawford