Introducing Kelly Menachemson
UOAA Executive Director
On February 15, Kelly Menachemson began her new role as executive director of the UO Alumni Association. To help you get to know the new head of your alumni association, we've prepared a short q&a by way of introduction.
Los Angeles, California
Husband (Steve), son (Noah), two cats (Rashi and Lavan)
What was your major in college, and can you bust a move?
I was in a variety of liberal arts majors, and I settled on Judaic studies, and that was what I ended up majoring in. I started out as a dance major. I danced all my life, including training with the Joffrey Ballet in New York, until I went to college. A knee injury ended my dance trajectory.
What was your original connection to the University of Oregon?
One set of my parents live in Eugene, and my younger brother came to the UO for two years before transferring to a university that offered a music business degree, which he wanted, but the UO doesn’t offer. He is still a Duck through and through.
How long have you been at the UO?
Seven years. My son was three, and we were in LA and I’d stayed home with him and we were starting to think about what life was going to look like, and how much time we were going to spend in the car, and all of those different Los Angeles things. I had a connection to the university through family, and my son and I would come up here for lengthy stretches of time, and I thought this could be an interesting place to live.
What were your previous positions at the UO?
Executive director of development and external affairs (October 2014–February 2016)
Senior director of development and external affairs (September 2011–October 2014)
Development director (October 2008–September 2011)
When I started at the University of Oregon I predominantly worked in two different units, the Clark Honors College and the PathwayOregon Program. I was there for the first year to 18 months, and then it became clear that the Honors College needed a full-time development officer working on raising money for Chapman Hall. I stepped into that role, and I was the development officer solely for the Honors College. Then about 18 months later the position in the College of Education opened up. I stepped into that role, and I’ve been there ever since.
What drew you to the UOAA?
I think this is an important place. Serving our alumni through every phase of life once they graduate is a special thing. The Alumni Association has a really critical role to play in that.
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed while being in a variety of different places within the university is that I’ve been able to think about the university as a single unit, rather than as individual units chopped up. How do we think more interdisciplinary, more multidisciplinary, serving the same populations but from different angles? It’s thinking about the university a bit more broadly and being able to create connections. This place allows that, it serves all alumni from all walks of life, all different areas across the campus.
The Alumni Association has an amazing opportunity to be engaging people from the moment they graduate, actually even before they graduate, so our relationships are solid and long-term. Our connections with alumni need to be comprehensive and holistic, so we’re not just reaching out to somebody who has been out of school for years and asking them for financial support as their ability to give monetarily grows. While we fully hope that our alumni will financially support the UO (we can’t maintain and increase academic success without that), our relationship is larger than that, it’s more robust.
What is your vision for the UOAA?
Most of us continue to want to learn and grow forever, so why aren’t we the place that creates more of those opportunities to serve our alumni? If we’re thinking about how we serve our alumni, who we educated for so long and taught to be curious thinkers, lifelong learners, explorers, all those different things, how do we continue doing that for them wherever they are? Do we use our faculty online more? Should we be expanding what we do in the job market for alumni? We already have a network, but can it be more robust, can we provide internships for our students over the summers with former alumni, giving them exposure to the workforce? Those are the kinds of things I’m thinking about, but I don’t know what that looks like yet.
What is the best thing about the UO?
I go home every day having learned something new. What could be better than that? Every day I go home a little smarter, a little more informed.