Connecting Alums: Multicultural and Affinity Engagement’s New Virtual Series

The vibrant and ever-evolving Vassar alum community of over 41,000 individuals across the globe includes scientists and singers, veterans and volleyball players, first-generation college graduates, and members of Native American nations. Multicultural and Affinity Engagement in the Office of Advancement, led by Director Sharon Parkinson, is gearing up to introduce an exciting initiative this fall. This initiative strives to deepen connections and foster engagement among Vassar alums globally, celebrating their shared experiences and diverse backgrounds.

side-by-side portraits of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere and Joshunda Sanders
Dr. Natasha Gordon-Chipembere ’92 (left) and Joshunda Sanders ’00 (right) will be the first speakers in the new “Multicultural and Affinity Engagement Virtual Events” series. Photos: Masauko Chipembere; Julian Budge

“Multicultural and Affinity Engagement Virtual Events” will kick off in October, Latinx Heritage Month, with a virtual event featuring Dr. Natasha Gordon-Chipembere ’92 on Sunday, Oct. 8, at 1:00 p.m. EST. Gordon-Chipembere, author of the award-winning historical novel Finding La Negrita, will talk about Costa Rica’s Afrodescendiente heritage, its contemporary expatriate community, and how her background as a child of Costa Rican/Panamanian immigrants influenced her writing. To register for “Embracing Afro-Latinx Heritage,” visit the registration page. A second event in November, a month in which veterans are celebrated, will feature novelist Joshunda Sanders ’00 on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 6:00 p.m. EST, hosted by Vassar veterans Makeda Johnson ’20 and Asia Baker ’24. Sanders will discuss her novel Women of the Post, based on the U.S. Army’s 6888th Battalion of Black women who served during World War II.

“These events are a testament to our commitment to honoring the diversity of Vassar experiences and providing engaging opportunities for our valued alums,” said Parkinson. “What it gives them, I feel, is something that speaks to them personally.”

Vice President for Advancement Tim Kane agrees. “It is important that Vassar celebrate and recognize the shared affinities of our alums, including athletics, social identities, former student affiliations, and much more,” he said. “Sharon is our first full-time director for this work, and I am excited to see her bring these priorities to life this fall and beyond.”

More events are in the works and will be announced later this year. All are open to any Vassar alum. For more information, follow @VassarAffinity on Twitter and Instagram, download the VASSAR Mobile App for iOS or Android, and watch for invitations in alum inboxes.

To develop programs, Parkinson surveyed several alums to find out what might be of interest. “Part of the ‘build it and they’ll come’ process is you might build it, and people might say it’s not what they need,” she said. “That’s why alum interviews were the first thing I wanted to do. I hired a research assistant, Francesca Miranda ’24, to help create a brief 15-minute needs assessment.”

Parkinson and her intern/event producer, Arily Velasco ’25, want to involve more alums in generating program ideas. Alums with ideas regarding affinity-based programs that would appeal to a wide-ranging audience at various life stages should email

September 20, 2023