‘Graduating Is Only Half the Journey’
Six alumni share the incredible connections they’ve made with fellow Boothies and explain why they’re inspired to pay it forward as volunteers.
- March 10, 2021
- Alumni Stories
With more than 55,000 graduates in over 120 countries, the Chicago Booth alumni community is global—and growing. As the worldwide Booth community continues to expand, dedicated volunteers devote their time to hosting events, connecting with prospective students, and keeping their school spirit alive, wherever they live. Read on to meet six alumni and learn why they’re motivated to keep giving back.
Interested in volunteering as a Chicago Booth graduate? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find opportunities in your area.
Darrylyn Bakshi, ’97
A Florida native, Darrylyn Bakshi came to Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program with a background in retail banking and quickly connected with global peers who helped her to leap forward in her career, and who became friends for life. “Booth became family,” said Bakshi, who serves on the UChicago Alumni Association Board, and has been active for nearly a decade in Booth’s Washington, DC, alumni club, where she now lives.
An avid basketball and music fan, Bakshi has hosted Booth alumni outings for Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls games, as well as gathered alumni for annual jazz events at the Kennedy Center. She has also hosted summer events for UChicago’s Institute of Politics interns and planned brunch events for the Chicago Booth Women’s Network.
“The most emotionally fulfilling experience for me was when I led an alumni team of several Booth and [UChicago] Law alumni and guests, all at the pinnacles of their professions, to engage in a round table discussion on energy policy, sharing the viewpoints that each stakeholder brought to the table,” recalled Bakshi. “We hammered through regulatory decision-making and the Supreme Court’s involvement with the Clean Power Plan, and its economic impact on businesses. From selecting the panelists to drafting the script, fundraising and planning the event, and then being there to roll out and watch the event unfold in a very positive and uplifting way, deeply moved me. I was amazed at the depth of policy discussion that we generated from so many critical viewpoints. The confidence that I gained in my analytical and leadership abilities while at Booth were key determinants in making it a very successful event.”
“I can see the direct impact that Booth has imparted on me. I volunteer to create similar positive impacts and community ties that hopefully bring together, uplift, and engage other alumni.”
Alberto Coloma, ’16 (EXP-21)
As vice president of the Chicago Booth Alumni Club of France, Alberto Coloma is proud of keeping the Booth spirit alive in the country. With fellow alumnus Alexandre Penet, ’09 (EXP-14), Coloma has helped plan an annual wine-tasting tour in Champagne, which has proven incredibly popular with fellow graduates.
“We launched it in 2019 and had an amazing crowd from across Europe in our first edition, said Coloma.“We are hoping for a recovery of the global health situation soon to allow us to extend its reach beyond Europe and welcome alumni from other continents.”
Since graduation, Coloma has been working in mobility services, and with fellow graduate Zeina Nazer, ’08 (EXP-13), launched the Chicago Booth Mobility and Cities group, offering connections and online events for alumni, students, faculty, and staff interested in the areas of mobility services and urban planning.
“Graduating from Chicago Booth is only half the journey,” said Coloma.“Being part of the Booth community gives you access to an international network of exceptional individuals. Volunteering is key to keeping the community alive and helping shape it around topics or ideas that are of interest for us.”
“I’m based in Paris, and even when I come back to my home country of Spain, I take the opportunity to meet other Boothies in the local community. The global Booth community makes the world smaller!”
Bostjan Hazabent, ’11 (EXP-16)
From his home in Slovenia’s capital city, Bostjan Hazabent has been hard at work building out a new alumni club for Booth graduates living and working in Central and Eastern Europe. After graduation, Hazabent spent time living and working in Vienna and Milan, both home to active Booth alumni clubs. After moving back to his home country, he saw a need to help facilitate connections in his part of Europe, and so he and his fellow Boothies got to work.
“Because of the high engagement of many alumni from the region, it took us only three months from having an idea to going live with the Chicago Booth Alumni Club of Central and Eastern Europe, which currently has more than 120 members from 13 countries. During the process I met amazing peers. With many, even though we have only met via Zoom, we are now building strong professional relationships as well as sharing our passions.”
The ability to strengthen their networks, especially during lockdown, has been a big plus for all involved, he said. “I believe the region itself is already vibrant and connected. With the club and communication channels, the Booth community should make even more business and close more friendships.”
“You get what you give. And as I tend to reach out quite often, I have met many business partners and friends. Whenever I used to travel, for business or pleasure, I usually checked the Booth directory in advance.”
S. Anil Kumar, ’09
Entrepreneur S. Anil Kumar describes attending Booth’s Weekend MBA Program as “one of the best career decisions I have made.” And it all happened because of a chance encounter with a West Coast–based Booth alumna, who told him about the program geared for working professionals outside Chicago and how she attended it while living and working full-time in Oregon. “It opened my mind to the possibilities,” said Kumar, who was based in Seattle at the time. “She didn't need to play the role of Booth ambassador, especially an unofficial one. Yet, she did, and I remain grateful to her for that.”
He adds, “Many others since then have also given generously of their time and support—during the admissions process, throughout the classroom experience, as fellow alumni and business operators, and even as investors in and champions of my startup.” Back in Chennai, India as an Indian-American, Kumar runs Jodi365.com, a growing matchmaking platform for Indian singles, a business he founded in the home stretch of his MBA program.
Kumar strives to pay it forward as an alumnus. He serves as president of the Chicago Booth Alumni Club of India and is an enthusiastic organizer of the group’s annual Pan-India Booth Alumni Retreat, a family-friendly gathering that draws 150+ Boothies for a long weekend of learning and fun activities. “Organizing committee members would attest that, as with study groups at Booth, friendships forged over working closely on a project for a few months are of the lasting kind.”
“I wouldn't argue that it is important to pay it forward, but I like the concept of karma. Do good, even when nobody is looking; good karma will find a way back to your door, multiplied many times over.”
Michael Vermillion, ’90
For Michael Vermillion, attending Chicago Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program to transition from a career in the US military into the business world was nothing short of “life changing,” he said. Before Booth, Vermillion had served in the US Navy as a young lieutenant, where all of his training had been focused on operating and driving a nuclear submarine.
“At Chicago, I was suddenly immersed in a new world of finance and economics, where my professors were advisors to the president and Nobel Prize winners,” recalled Vermillion. “My classmates became lifelong friends, and my career path was enabled by my Booth degree. So, giving back to the community through volunteering is a small gesture, but hopefully an impactful one.”
In his role as copresident of the Chicago Booth Alumni Club of Los Angeles, Vermillion helps to connect alumni in the area and plan a variety of fun and engaging events.
“One of the great things about the global Booth alumni network is that it makes it very easy to find experts on almost any topic,” shared Vermillion. “For example, we have a panel early in 2021 that will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on small business and entrepreneurship. Through the alumni network, we were able to find and recruit three amazing panelists including a CEO of a ghost-kitchen company, an advisor to female CEOs, and a cofounder of a small business that was heavily impacted by COVID-19.”
“One of my favorite events is a quarterly brunch for Los Angeles leaders and other alumni who are interested in organizing events or just more actively participating in the club. We sit out on the patio on a Sunday morning with our kids and dogs and take the time to get to know each other as people.”
Heather Wade, ’18 (EXP-23)
Especially during this time of social distancing, Heather Wade has found the ability to check in with fellow Boothies to be “a lifeline.” Said Wade, “While I do miss in-person events and cannot wait to get to the new campus in London, it has also been great to connect on video calls, where people from different locations can easily attend and share experiences.”
Wade’s favorite way of volunteering is connecting with prospective Executive MBA students from the EMEA region, and sharing what her UChicago and Booth education means to her. “I enjoy working through with them why Booth is a great choice and what they can bring to the program, as well as what they will get from it.” Wade is also involved with a fellow group of highly engaged Booth alumnae from across Europe, in a program that focuses on increasing women’s participation in board service.
“I got so much from the Booth program and from my cohort that it was important to me to continue the connection with Booth post-graduation,” said Wade. “I firmly believe that the connection with Booth is lifelong, and that you get out what you put in.”
“Through my volunteering activity, I’ve met a diverse and dedicated group of people, all of whom want to raise the profile of Booth in London, and this benefits us all.”
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