Sunday, May 11, 2008

The AIESEC Spirit...

In April we took this show on the road! I attended the Colorado alumni ski weekend (25 alumni in one huge house), traveled up to Seattle for an LC hosted alumni event at their University (30 alumni made it out), organized a happy hour in Chicago (over 65 alumni showed up), and made it to Minneapolis to reunite some LCPs from my AIESEC days (about 10 alumni).

This picture pretty much sums up how I feel about the experience – fist pumping amazing! It was incredible to travel around the country hearing inspiring stories from alumni, learning how AIESEC affected where they are today, talking about our plans with AIESEC Life, and getting valuable feedback on our strategy. I spoke to alumni from 1976 through to 2005 and the common theme was: “Finally! AIESEC Life is the organization we’ve been waiting for!” Some alumni were excited to get back in touch with lost friends from their AIESEC days, others want reliable ways to give back to AIESEC, but most of all, people are excited about the career and networking opportunities through this powerful alumni group.

Here are some of the highlights from my travels:

In Colorado, Joel Sanders, Shawn Le Mons, Monica Vilpuu, and Angelika Ilina organized an amazing ski weekend. While in Denver I met Karin Rutstein (AIESEC Colorado 83-87) who is actively supporting the AIESEC Colorado chapter and Geoff Smart (AIESEC Northwestern LCP 1993-1994), Chairman and CEO of ghSMART, who decided to pledge $25,000 to AIESEC Life and join the Founders’ Circle!

In Seattle, I learned that when someone introduces themselves and they say “I work for the small tech company on the east side”…they are talking about Microsoft :) It was an exciting evening since in one room we had four alumni who had been involved in starting up AIESEC countries - Will Merritt and Melissa (Powell) Merritt (AIESEC US NC 1981-82) established AIESEC in Senegal and Togo, Lili Hein (AIESEC Seattle 1994) was the first President of AIESEC in China, and Professor Bud Saxberg helped start AIESEC Helsinki in 1949 and is very proudly still on his traineeship today in the US!

In Chicago we took over the top floor of a bar called English (several generations of AIESEC Illinois represented in the pic below). I was glad Barry Bowlus and George Somogyi (AIESEC NIU 1978) made it out to the event along with Jeff Davis Jr. (AIESEC Purdue LCP 2002-03), Tara (Wedwaldt) Giuliano (AIESEC OSU LCP 2002), and Devi Chari (AIESEC Illinois LCP 2005) who have volunteered to help organize future events! The next day I met Michael Wheylan (AIESEC Madison 1988-90) who, through a family connection, helped us secure the Sheraton downtown for the upcoming alumni congress in Sept (cough…the alumni network works…cough) and just before heading out of town I had lunch with Cris Arens (AIESEC US NC 1988-89) to discuss AIESEC Life’s IT strategy.

In Minneapolis, we had a reunion of AIESEC St. Cloud and Eau Claire alumni from 2003-2005: Holly Brekken, Angie Ostlie, Connie Gelhaus, and Allison Katz among others, all made it out for a night of polka dancing and drinking from a giant boot of beer! I also had a chance to catch up with Jason Weaver and Lindsay Allen (AIESEC Michigan 2000) who are getting married next year….yet another AIESEC love story!

Ten days on the road, over 100 alumni, and I am happy to report that the AIESEC spirit is alive and well in alumni across the country. Our job now is to tap into that energy and continue this grass roots momentum to build a strong alumni community. I’ve never been more convinced that the potential for an AIESEC alumni association is truly limitless!

Rickesh Kishnani
AIESEC Life President (AIESEC US NCP 2003-05)

P.S. Feel free to contact me or leave a comment below if you have questions, opinions, feedback, thoughts on what we should be doing to grow AIESEC Life….we want to hear from you!