Pasha Thao

WAA Refocused

After feedback from alumni of color, the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) is reestablishing several identity-based affinity groups.

WAA has created a full-time position to help support affinity groups after nearly two decades of limited activity from the African American Alumni Association; Hispanic and Latino Alumni Association; *American Indian Alumni Council; Asian-Pacific Island-Desi American; and the *Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender Alumni Council.

In this new role, Pasha Thao ’16 hopes to support the groups through communication, structure, and consistent guidelines for alumni across all associations.

Affinity groups are volunteer-led, cultural and identity-based organizations that bring alumni together to celebrate being a Badger. The affinity groups were active in the 1990s but petered out in the 2000s. While researching how they previously operated, Thao considered how WFAA engages alumni of color to make them feel as though groups will be around for the long run. She has outlined ways in which she can help the groups succeed and move forward by establishing long-term goals, support, and structure.

She also hopes to provide a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere, as alumni of color have reported feeling isolated or disconnected from university engagements. 

The decision to hire a staff member and resurrect these four affinity groups is part of WAA’s Strategic Plan for Diverse Alumni Engagement, adopted in 2018. Alumni of color were not engaging in WAA’s programs, Thao says, making a renewed emphasis on engagement a priority. The organizations can build future connections by developing scholarships and mentorship opportunities for students and young alumni. Because the affinity groups are associated with WAA, they can tap into the association’s resources, such as crowdfunding, marketing, and communications. The ultimate goal, Thao says, is for the affinity groups to help and unify the next generation of Badgers.

*goal to reestablish within the next year.