From the Office of Admissions to the Office of Alumni Relations, Allyson Bretch ’14 has strived to ensure that University of West Georgia students have their best experiences no matter what phase of life they are in.
Today, she will continue to have an even more significant impact on the UWG community as the university’s new permanent executive director of alumni relations. The naming follows a national search by a team of stakeholders both internal and external to UWG, including campus partners, Alumni Association board members and affinity group leaders.
Bretch, who has worked at UWG for almost a decade and has served as interim executive director for the past year, said she is excited to continue to build valuable relationships with alumni.
“I look forward to continuing to learn people’s stories and how they want to be engaged with their alma mater,” she said. “It’s incredible to be able to rekindle relationships and share memories with every generation of alumni.”
Vice President of University Advancement Dr. Meredith N. Brunen said Bretch exhibits the ability to provide the vision, leadership and oversight to the position.
“With an alumni network 70,000 strong, there is so much potential to cultivate meaningful connections and engagement, as well as enhance the student experience, through our valuable alumni,” Brunen said. “We are committed to launching the careers of students before graduation, and it will take our alumni to deliver on this educational promise. Allyson has already shown in her time on campus that she can bring people together and help move us forward in that strategic direction.”
Bretch’s introduction to UWG in 2012 was, as she described, very personal and “really special.” Upon college graduation, Bretch worked in student activities for a couple of years at Reinhardt University, a private college with an enrollment of approximately 1,130 students. During a short stint in corporate event production – what she called a fun and eye-opening experience – she felt like there was something missing.
“I missed my relationships and connections with students,” Bretch confessed. “I had kept in touch with a few student leaders from Reinhardt, one who was at UWG in the college student affairs graduate program. She knew I’d talked about getting my master’s degree and said the program was looking to expand.”
Shortly after Bretch’s application and acceptance, the program director called her to say it would be more meaningful if she quit her job and attended graduate school full time.
“That truly stood out to me,” reminisced Bretch, who went on to receive a master’s degree in professional counseling from UWG’s College of Education. “My first experience at West Georgia was having somebody overseeing a graduate program reach out to me, talk through my life decisions and think about how my degree would impact my career. It felt like such a great fit and a community that I wanted to be a part of.”
Halfway through the program, Bretch was hired as assistant director for campus visits and outreach programs in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Three years later she was promoted to associate director. Shortly thereafter, due to a desire to develop a holistic understanding of the admissions process, she moved to associate director of recruitment.
Already having an admissions colleague who transferred to UWG’s Division of University Advancement, Bretch decided to apply for the director of annual giving in the Office of Alumni Relations.
“The position struck my interest,” she shared. “The relationships developed through alumni relations are impactful. I love A Day [the most celebrated and historical campaign for the University of West Georgia Annual Fund]. It is such an incredible tradition that tells a meaningful story of the reasons why we support UWG. The community members, alumni and business owners who surround that tradition paint a picture of why UWG is so special. Hearing their stories of how West Georgia enriches their lives informs the work that we do.”
Bretch said it is important for alumni to stay involved with UWG for several reasons.
“As alumni, we continue to bring value to our degrees by sharing our news and accomplishments,” she shared. “It’s an incredible opportunity to help our current students at West Georgia to show them that they can do it. We’re continuing to pave the way in our careers, our volunteer activities, and in the way we’re engaged in our communities.”
Bretch has served as both director of annual giving and interim executive director of alumni relations since January 2020. Now able to focus on a permanent role, she has several short- and long-term goals in place.
In the immediate future, Bretch and her team will continue to find creative ways to connect with alumni via virtual activities and events during the pandemic while also remaining hopeful for in-person engagement opportunities in the near future. Two programs that are currently gaining strength include the UWG Alumni Mentor program and the geographic affinity chapters.
One thing that COVID-19 has proven is the ability to connect with people, regardless of location or time zone. Bretch said this will allow UWG to expand its reach and learn how the university can be a resource to its alumni and how its alumni can be resources to its students.
“This is such an incredible time of change,” Bretch concluded. “It’s all about growing relationships, building connections and continuing to share the good word of West Georgia.”