Collaboration Spotlight: Ask Me Anything
by Michelle Versfeld

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Athens, it radically changed the daily routine for Development and Alumni Relations staff.

Development officers who had prospect visits planned found themselves learning to build relationships through technology. Support staff that would normally be busy hosting events and organizing travel behind the scenes spent time brainstorming how to create meaningful touchpoints online. And the immense workload of our amazing IT team rapidly increased, as they prepared our team to work from home and troubleshooting issues remotely.

Through this challenging time, DAR rallied in true “Sic’ Em” fashion—collaborating on innovative initiatives that serve others and further the university’s commitment to its students, staff, faculty, alumni, and state. What has been a challenging time has also been a time of opportunity.  One of the successful initiatives created during this time is the Ask Me Anything webinar series.

Ask Me Anything (AMA) is a series of interactive online sessions between alumni and UGA faculty members from diverse academic disciplines. Experts from UGA discuss the effects of this global pandemic on their specific area of expertise and provide participants the opportunity to ask questions in real time.

The event attracts a multitude of viewers and is a testament to the success that happens when we collaborate. AMA’s working committee consists of representatives from Alumni Relations, Client Services, Communications, Corporate and Foundation Relations, Information Technology, and Regional Programs. Each team offers a specific skillset and point-of-view to the committee, improving its scope and perspective to create a more well-rounded program.

In addition to the committee’s leadership, the series would not have been possible without the help of the Constituent Programs team. Development officers and alumni relations specialists work with faculty and staff in their schools and colleges to prep for each webinar and moderate the conversations.

The AMA series was born out of a need to connect with alumni and further the university’s mission—“to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things”—as we navigate these uncertain times. It has become an opportunity for ongoing engagement with supporters of the university and a platform to educate the public on the great research happening at UGA, while also serving the long-term goal of increasing funding to these areas.

The success of these first events has the division poised to schedule another series for later this summer, which might also feature alumni in addition to faculty/staff.

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