Best to Lead Alumni Association’s Outreach and Engagement Programs
October 31, 2016
Russell Best, DAAP ’09, ’15, has joined the staff of the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association (UCAA) as director of outreach and engagement, constituent relations. Best will manage the development and implementation of various programs and experiences to promote alumni engagement with the university. This includes oversight of national, international and affinity-group alumni networks; career and corporate networking initiatives; outreach to students and the community; multicultural programs; and events such as Homecoming, Alumni Weekend and reunions.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Russell to the UCAA team, and to provide such a qualified professional and devoted Bearcat with the opportunity to make a big difference within the UC alumni family,” said Jennifer L. Heisey, ’97, executive director of the UC Alumni Association and vice president of alumni relations for the UC Foundation. “Within our organizational mission, we encourage and facilitate involvement of alumni with their alma mater and each other, and that largely occurs through the channels Russell is charged with leading.”
Best’s appointment represents a personal homecoming. He was a leader on campus as a student and later worked in UC’s Office of Student Activities & Leadership Development. That led to his most recent work as director of expansion and regional director with his national fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, where he interacted with nearly 200,000 alumni and 13,000 collegiate members on more than 230 campuses nationwide.
Best addressed some questions about his new role and why this work is so personally important to him as well as strategically important for the organization:
What makes this position with the UC Alumni Association so personally compelling?
Cincinnati is home, and the University of Cincinnati is twice my alma mater. My wife and I, our families, and many friends are here. Both of my parents graduated from UC. So I’m excited by the opportunity to join a growing team at the UC Alumni Association and UC Foundation that’s focused on increasing engagement and enriching the Bearcat community. I feel that my diverse academic, personal and professional background is well suited to successfully execute signature programs such as Homecoming, Commencement and Alumni Weekend, and to help alumni reconnect and tap into the university’s incredible network.
What do you bring to the position that is unique?
As an undergraduate and graduate student, I was immersed in UC campus activities. While I studied urban planning and completed professional practice experiential learning in the public and private sectors, my co-curricular activities led me to a career path in student affairs — more specifically, work in the fraternity and sorority world. This provided years of experience working with literally thousands of students, alumni and administrators at UC and across the country.
Looking back, what stands out about your UC student experience?
Absolutely it’s my involvement in the fraternity and sorority community, and this reaches far beyond just my own fraternity. I was also involved in the Interfraternity Council. Greek Life provided the network and encouragement for involvement in other organizations, student government and honor societies. I met my wife through mutual Greek friends. I’ll be forever grateful that my student fraternity experience connected me with so many people and new leadership challenges, and spurred my current career. Also, study abroad to India and my graduate internship in Brazil were really cool experiences.
What stands out from your seven years as an alumnus, since you received your first UC degree?
What really strikes me is the breadth and quality of experiences available to students, faculty, guests and alumni — something that really didn’t sink in until post-graduation. I’ve traveled to and worked with over 100 colleges and universities. Few institutions have our mix of world-renowned academic programs, experiential learning, campus activities, athletics, amenities, alumni programs, the professional network, historic and contemporary architecture, and an urban campus in such a livable city. UC’s sense of place is second to none and only improving. As an alumnus, that’s something to be very proud of.
What will constitute success in your new role?
“How is the University of Cincinnati enriching your life as an alumnus?” That’s the question that I expect to be able to better answer for our nearly 300,000 alumni across the globe. Our UCAA team is focused on increasing alumni participation and the richness of alumni experiences. We want all Bearcats to truly be Bearcats for life. Making great strides in diversity outreach and engagement, national and international programs, and campus engagement are my top priorities.
Do you have a guiding philosophy that will help shape your approach to fostering alumni engagement?
With responsibility for developing and directing a variety of alumni programs, I value diligence, adaptability, initiative, and a collaborative spirit. We want to surround the entire UC family with people whom they respect and admire. Alumni represent a cornerstone of this commitment. Everyone can play a part in helping to cultivate the best and brightest Bearcat family, inside and outside of the classroom. I very much look forward to playing a key part in the continued growth and success of the University of Cincinnati.