A Final Thought
Victoria Velasco ’04 has been deeply involved with Stevens for more than half her life — as a student leader, as a young alumni volunteer and, for the past five years, as president of the nearly 54,000-member Stevens Alumni Association (SAA). She is its longest-serving president and only the third woman in the organization’s 146-year history to hold this top leadership role.
This fall, as her term — which has seen marked growth in programming and participation — came to a close, Velasco reflected on what has inspired her to serve her alma mater, why her fellow alumni should get involved and other personal callings. Here’s a recent conversation.
What First Inspired You to Become an Alumni Volunteer?
I received the Ann P. Neupauer Scholarship to attend Stevens, a full-tuition scholarship. Ann’s three brothers graduated from Stevens in the 1920s, but she herself did not attend. She passed away in 1996, and a scholarship was endowed. So, there was no way that I could personally thank her for the gift that impacted my life. Instead, I got involved. Because I had to somehow pay it forward.
You Took on Leadership Roles Quickly Within the SAA.
It’s been a series of invitations, and I guess I accepted them. The Alumni Association invited a group of student leaders to an SAA meeting during my senior year. At graduation I was named the young alumni trustee for my class, and right away I got involved. The Old Guard put a lot of faith in me. But I had to prove my mettle. Lillian (Chu Zawislak ’04), Josh (Zawislak ’06), and I started the “Welcome Seniors” event, which was held for future alumni before graduation to introduce them to our alumni community… We were encouraged by so many — I don’t want to start listing them because I will forget someone undoubtedly! We received more responsibilities and, eventually, I was invited to serve as an officer. We’re all very capable people — we went to Stevens!
Why Should Stevens Alumni Want to Get Involved with Their Alma Mater?
The power of our degrees is tied to Stevens, regardless of when you graduated. I think whatever we can do to elevate Stevens’ reputation and the strength of the degree affects us personally. It’s about giving back in whatever capacity you can. So, it’s coming back to mentor, to do talks on real-life experience after you get your degree … you can help someone figure out what they want to do, and what the journey can be for them.
You Just Started Your 19th Year of Teaching Math at Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey. What Do You Love About Your Work?
Everyone’s got their vocation. I think working with youth is mine. I have students who are going into STEM-related fields. [Editor’s Note: About three dozen of Velasco’s former students have graduated from Stevens.] So, you’re making a direct impact on what they’re going to do later in life. And it’s not just about teaching them [math]; it’s teaching them to be good citizens. In high school, they’re discovering so much about who they are as a person. If you have a moment to impact that, how amazing is that?
How Do You Feel About the Future of Stevens and its Alumni?
There has been much work in recent years — in particular this past year — to ensure an alignment between the Alumni Association and our alma mater, to help us better serve all alumni. The jointly developed Strategic Plan for Alumni Engagement is one great example. With this, combined with the incredible people who will work to make it a reality — the increasingly accomplished incoming classes, the amazing alumni volunteers across the globe, generations and diverse life experiences — you can’t help but be excited for what’s next.
— As told to Beth Kissinger