Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Where to Meet New People: Your Local Alumni Group

FACT: D.C. is different. Even if you're brand-spanking-new to the area, surely you figured this out upon disembarking the ship ... or however you got here.  

We drink, eat, work, read, travel, commute, argue, dress, prioritize, communicate, meet people, and make friends differently. By nature, the demographics of D.C. are drastically different than, say, my hometown of Tampa. D.C. has a much higher concentration of young, educated, ambitious, and engaged people. It makes sense, then, that alumni groups are different-in-kind here too.

Because we tend to be a transient people, local alumni groups are especially well-accustomed to welcoming new members and bidding adieu to those departing for new opportunities. Lately, though, I've learned that several area friends have never taken advantage of this great opportunity to be active and get involved. Have you?

People frequently ask me where I met Awesome-Friend B or C or Slightly-Annoying-But-Hilarious Friend G. There are really only a handful of answers, but the two most frequent (at least lately) have been via Twitter (a totally unique being in D.C.) or university/alumni groups.

Since graduating from college, I've moved around quite a bit. For a couple of years, I even returned to my alma-mater to sit on the other side of the desk and force students to call me "Professor Thirsty." A big proportion of alumni stayed within the area, so team-fever was especially strong and contagious. (And you better believe I took full advantage of the faculty "2 free tickets to every game" deal!) The D.C. alumni chapter, though, is still more active and cohesive as a group.  

When I moved back to D.C. in 2009, the first outing on my calendar was an alumni softball game on the National Mall, where I connected with old friends and made a handful of new ones. (No, I don't play.)

Photo Credit: The New York Times
The Capital Alumni Network softball league's opening night is coming up on April 10, and there's a good chance that your school has a team. If you aren't an athlete or if your team doesn't have room on the roster this year, show up to support them anyway and join in on the post-game imbibing at The Exchange

In typical D.C. fashion, even alumni softball isn't as simple as it sounds; the competition is not over just because the players leave the field. Each game night, the title of "Last Team Standing" is awarded to the alumni group with the most endurance/tolerance ... at the bar! CAN has 2 pages of rules on this award, but it basically boils down to this -- the team that drinks the longest wins. Who better to relive your college days with than people who went there too?

Photo Credit: The Exchange's Facebook page

I went to a basketball school and am an intense fan (just ask The Singleship!), so March Madness is also a particularly important and exciting time of the year for me. Though I usually avoid the "official" gamewatches (the location is just inconvenient now that I'm wheel-less), friends and I created rogue viewing parties so as not to miss a second of the big dance.  

If you went to Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville, or Ohio State, there's still time for you to buy a ticket to NOLA ... or just plan on joining your alumni groups at various bars in the city.

D.C.'s Kentucky Wildcats can be found at Touchdown Sports Bar on U Street and outside the beltway at Grevey's in Falls Church. Jayhawks from Kansas congregate at the The Bottom Line (an old favorite) and Bailey's in Arlington. According to a comment on their Facebook page, the Louisville Cards will be at McFadden's, and Buckeyes from THE Ohio State (ugh...) are in my neighborhood at Rhino Bar & Pumphouse.

Don't know how to find your group? Come on, it's 2012! Google it, look on your school's website, find their Facebook page or Twitter account, or just ask around. I didn't go to any of these Final 4 schools, so the information is definitely out there!

If sports aren't your thing, most groups have alternative offerings throughout the year to engage alumni of all ages and interests. For example:

1. One of my alumni chapters routinely hosts lectures by local alumni experts or professors visiting from campus. 
2. If your school has a traveling glee club or orchestra, keep your eyes out for invitations to local musical performances.
3. My undergrad alma-mater was located just a few miles from an MLB stadium, so we all get discounted tickets to a Nationals game when they're in town.
4. Both of my schools host days of service for area alumni to connect with one another and give back to the city.
5. I've heard that there are occasional gatherings with alumni in Congress, but that tends to be VIP-only (Read: big donors. Read: not me).
6. During the off-season, you'll likely see more fundraising and networking opportunities -- be as generous as you can/choose or volunteer to help as part of your contribution.
7. If your school has an especially large D.C. presence, you'll probably see more opportunities for specific groups -- young alumni, over 50, singles, women, families, etc.
8. Last year, I met a bunch of great people (that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise) from rival schools at an All-State happy hour.  
9. Last week, one of my schools teamed up with the larger conference to participate in a night of comedy at Riot Act in Penn Quarter. 
10. This week, I'm seriously considering going to an alumni singles cocktail party.

Still on the fence? A close friend and outgoing president of a thriving, local alumni chapter has this sage advice for you: "get involved! The people running these groups are people like you and me. If you want to make a ton of new friends fast, then volunteer to be on a committee. It's not a lot of work but very rewarding."

Yes, there are countless ways to meet people and involve yourself in the city, but you do already have at least one thing in common with these folk! If you're looking to expand your social circle and connect with more people, you might as well give it a shot, right? If nothing else, maybe you too will be able to say, "Oh, I met Slightly-Annoying-But-Hilarious Friend G at an alumni trivia night."

Go Team!


  1. Kevin Grevey played at Kentucky so that would make sense. Nice post.

    What did you teach?

  2. I didn't make that connection - nice catch!

    I taught theology (odd, I know).