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Overcoming challenges together

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to serve as the president of the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association for the past year.

And what a year it has been!

My first year as president kicked off with some exceptional in-person activities and events, including a cheque presentation at Homecoming 2019 announcing WLUAA’s $800,000 pledge to the university. This pledge was made in support of enhanced sexual violence counselling for students, the development of the Nadjiwan Kaandossiwin Gamik Indigenous Student Centre, supporting the Laurier Library’s unique and innovative Makerspace, and a renewal of the association’s academic scholarships.

We want to thank you – the Laurier alumni community – for making this donation possible through your participation in our GradVantages affinity programs.

Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith

While I greatly miss getting to regularly meet with fellow alumni and members of the Laurier community in person, I take great pride in what the alumni association has been able to achieve during the past year to support Laurier and its thriving communities, despite all of the challenges.

Through your alumni association, we continue to ensure that alumni are making a positive difference at Laurier. We were very proud to announce a leadership-level gift to support the Laurier COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

"Even in these challenging times, the Laurier alumni family remains strong and connected."

– Ryan Smith

When the pandemic hit in spring of 2020, we saw Laurier students suddenly losing summer employment opportunities, unable to pay rent, or unable to stay in on-campus housing. These challenges were significant and further complicated by a complete shift in academic programming as classes moved to an online format. By supporting the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, the alumni association was able to provide financial relief to Laurier students and ease the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Additionally, the alumni association drafted and approved an updated strategic plan outlining three priorities to guide the association during the coming years:

1) Providing alumni voice and leadership to support the Laurier Strategy. A big part of this strategic priority for the association is understanding “the future of work” – the societal, workplace and educational trends that will impact our alumni, as well as current students.

2) Being the bridge between Laurier's alumni network, the university and the community.

3) Strengthening governance capacity.

Our board has been meeting virtually since March and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Even in these challenging times, the Laurier alumni family remains strong and connected. This was certainly apparent during Homecoming 2020. Our first virtual Homecoming was a huge success, trending in Canada on social media, with so many alumni and friends taking part in programming that showcased their Laurier pride.

I want to thank everybody who attended the association’s virtual annual general meeting, although I think the highlight of Homecoming for many was learning the secret behind Mary Berg’s amazing Dutch baby pancakes!

As we navigate uncharted waters caused by a global pandemic, I encourage you to tap into the network and resources available to you as Laurier alumni. You can connect with fellow Golden Hawks through our LinkedIn group or through the Ten Thousand Coffees platform. If your organization is currently hiring, you can post opportunities for students and alumni. Now more than ever, members of our alumni network can support each other.

In addition, the university has several resources available for alumni. All alumni have access to Laurier's Career Centre services, including online appointments, workshops and the Alumni Employment Service. A number of career-related webinars are also planned. For more information, visit

Thank you for all of the ways you share and show your Golden Hawk pride to your fellow alumni and communities, especially now. I’m truly privileged to lead such a caring and resilient alumni community.

Stay golden, stay safe and stay connected.

Ryan Smith (BBA ’98)
President, WLUAA

To read more articles from the 2020 Fall-Winter print edition of Laurier Campus magazine and new alumni stories between print editions, visit