The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

CATS: Panthers with hardworking paws

Connecting Alumni to Students (CATS) hosts a variety of events for students and alumni alike. For homecoming, the students in CATS volunteer to make sure these events are enjoyable for all of its attendees.

“CATS,” otherwise known as The University of Northern Iowa’s Connecting Alumni To Students, is the foremost student organization on campus that promotes the lasting connection between past, present, and future Panthers. With the “Our Tomorrow” capital campaign in full swing, it is essential that the university can build and keep strong connections between former and current students, and this is where CATS members come in to help.

CATS is the official student-led organization of the UNI Alumni Association. According to Assistant Director of Alumni Relations as well as chapter advisor Sarah Craw (UNI 14’ and 16’ grad), “CATS’s main purpose is to help the alumni association build pride and engagement with students and build a sense of belonging of current students of being a UNI panther, that helps drive their engagement after graduation.”

Craw says that CATS supports three main university goals. The first overarching goal CATS helps support is the encouragement of future philanthropy to be given by UNI alums. The UNI Foundation receives support from CATS members to aid in ongoing capital campaigns and fundraising, as well as to assist alumni upon their return to campus. CATS members are advocates who help motivate others to give their first donation during the “Live Purple Give Gold,” the yearly UNI day of giving in the Spring. This will hopefully begin a lifetime of giving back to the university for these first-time donors.

The second goal of CATS is the keeping of UNI Traditions for generations to come. This is done through the organization’s sponsorship of the “Traditions Challenge.” The challenge was founded in 2009 as a guide for all current students to record and explore ways to create the most meaningful UNI experience possible. At this time, over 1,082 students have completed the challenge and been inducted by the program as “Tradition Keepers.”

The last pillar of the organization is connecting alumni to students. Craw mentioned this includes “knowing what it means to be an active alum, supporting current students through mentorship, or networking opportunities so they can see the value of alumni engagement on a personal level.” Chapter President Sam Adams said regarding alum-student interaction, “I think it is a great networking opportunity; as a soon-to-be grad, I am not as nervous when it comes to finding a job, as I know I have networking capabilities with UNI alums. As a student involved in CATS, it has pushed me to grow and become a better person.”

Sarah Craw, pictured above left, advises the students in CATS. She facilitates meetings and volunteer sign ups. Her role in the Alumni Association is vital to the university and the students she supports.

CATS currently has 43 members within the organization. Craw stated, “Because of everything we do for the alumni association, we need a robust number to be able to move in different directions and find the right events for the right population.” These events have ranged from foundation fundraisers to working with the President’s office and peer-to-peer development.” Another responsibility CATS takes on is the working of Alumni Suites during home basketball and football games. Adams says, “We work these suites to be the faces of the university and connect with alums.”

The UNI Foundation’s “Our Tomorrow” campaign has raised $243 Million dollars of its $250 million goal. CATS has been right there since the beginning of the campaign, connecting with potential donors and explaining to them the importance their gift can make to UNI students like them. Adams stated, “We advocate for “Our Tomorrow” as much as possible. We are always there talking to those donors; as students, it actually impacts us because there is always more room to grow as a university.”

Advisor Craw mentioned that part of the CATS mission is to educate current UNI students on what the UNI Foundation and alumni association do to support them while enrolled as a student and outside campus within the workforce. Craw stated, “Panther Nation is a very unique bubble to be a part of. Panthers love helping panthers, and it’s not uncommon for someone to come to us asking, I’m heading to a certain geographical area, and who do you know? We have the resources to know alums who could help you.”

CATS is always looking for new members of their team. CATS will begin recruiting new members when UNI returns to classes in January 2024. CATS will take applications through February 16th; interviews will follow if selected. Adams mentioned that all information will be available on the CATS Instagram page at “CATSUNI,” and all interested students should apply.

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