Gratitude in Action

UH Celebrates National Volunteer Appreciation Month

Every April, National Volunteer Appreciation Month shines the spotlight on the invaluable contributions of volunteers across the country. It’s a time to honor their dedication, recognize their impact and inspire others to give back to their communities or to causes that matter to them.

At the University of Houston, the Division of Advancement and Alumni takes this opportunity to acknowledge and honor, both publicly and personally, the invaluable contributions of volunteer leaders vital to the University’s success. These leaders, including alumni, students and UH supporters from around the world, dedicate their time and energy to various initiatives that enrich UH and the Houston community.

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One way the efforts of volunteer leaders are recognized at the University is with personalized tokens of gratitude. This month, University of Houston staff and students participated in a comprehensive card signing for volunteers who make a difference. These heartfelt messages reflect the University’s gratitude and help build and strengthen relationships among individuals who are invested in UH’s future.

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Division of Advancement & Alumni staff (L to R: Miles Johnson, Allison Martin and Tyrone Jimmison) participate in card signing for National Volunteer Appreciation Month

Division of Advancement & Alumni staff (L to R: Miles Johnson, Allison Martin and Tyrone Jimmison) participate in card signing for National Volunteer Appreciation Month

The Hobby School of Public Affairs celebrated National Volunteer Appreciation Month by featuring their Alumni Association President Leonard Chan (MPA ’09) in a post on LinkedIn.

Chan emphasizes the importance of volunteering for his alma mater: “The strength of the Hobby School depends not only on what happens inside the classroom but also on the mutual support that students, faculty and alumni can provide each other.”

There are many ways for volunteers to get involved and support UH throughout the year. One way is through the Advancement Ambassadors student leadership organization.

Advancement Ambassadors are campus leaders who foster connections between current students and the University’s biggest supporters. Connecting over their shared passion for the University of Houston and a commitment to philanthropy, Advancement Ambassadors demonstrate to donors the diverse and exceptional composition of the student body. Their volunteer work includes helping with various Division of

Advancement and Alumni-sponsored events and serving as greeters, student focus group representatives and VIP tour guides.

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Omar Cano (’24), vice chair of the Advancement Ambassadors, shares what he has discovered through volunteering.

“With volunteering, results are not usually immediate, but instead they are gradual,” Cano explained.
“It is kind of like planting a seed; it will take a while to see results, but as you nurture it, you start to see the bigger picture and the impacts along the way.”

To students considering joining Advancement Ambassadors or volunteering in general, he offers this advice: “Say yes to any opportunities that come your way. Many of our Advancement Ambassadors’ favorite events come from opportunities that come out of the blue. I sat in on a Board of Visitors Task Force meeting, where I was graciously welcomed and invited to share my thoughts on the Centennial Project. Sitting in such a collaborative environment left me inspired and even more excited about the future.”

Volunteering doesn’t have to end with graduation. UH alumni are important partners in the University’s success, and we encourage interested volunteers to join alumni networks and volunteer groups that cater to a variety of interests.

“That’s what I love about our alumni ecosystem,” Kaitlyn Palividas (’17), co-chair of the Young Alumni Network, asserts. “If you feel like the Young Alumni is not the right place for you, we hope to connect you with one of our other groups. No one’s going to turn you away. It’s about finding the right fit for you.”

This year, Palividas was recognized for her dedication to giving back to her alma mater at the 69th Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony. She won the Billie Schneider Outstanding Volunteer Award.

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Palividas' husband JP Dowling ('16) presenting her with her award

Palividas' husband JP Dowling ('16) presenting her with her award

She currently serves on three UH volunteer groups. She is not only the co-chair of the Young Alumni Network but also the Athletics chair of the Valenti School of Communication Alumni Board and the alumni engagement chair of the Honors College Advisory Board. She explains how each of these volunteer roles serves different functions.

“The Valenti Board is related to careers and mentorship. The Young Alumni Network is more event-focused, while the Honors College Advisory Board concentrates on helping students and determining ways to support the college,” Palividas explains.

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Palividas with UHAAF board members

Palividas with UHAAF board members

Palividas decided to volunteer as an alumna because she appreciated her experience as part of the Bonners Leaders program in the Honors College.

“I was able to attend UH because of the generosity of donors. To graduate debt-free was a massive gift, and I want to give that back,” she shares. 

Volunteer leaders committed in accomplishing the University’s big goals, such as becoming a Top 50 public research university, are appointed by President Renu Khator to one of three leadership volunteer boards: the National Development Council, the Board of Visitors and the Energy Advisory Board. These enthusiastic supporters donate their time, energy and skills to advocate for the University’s interests among alumni and donors across the city, state and beyond.

Aylwin Lewis (’76, MBA ’90), the chair of the Board of Visitors and a member of the National Development Council, shares his perspective on volunteering and its importance to him.

“The education that I received as an undergrad at the University was the foundation of my life,” he said.
“The Board of Visitors was a way to demonstrate my appreciation.”

He emphasized the role of leadership in facilitating volunteering efforts.

 “Volunteering is made easier when there is superior leadership and achievement,” he noted. “Our great president has provided that. There has never been a better time to give your time and money to this University. We are trying to become a top 50 public university. A more active alumni group will help our great president achieve this goal.”

Last year, over 1,500 volunteers made meaningful contributions to the University as board and committee members. These volunteer leaders represent a diverse array of backgrounds and interests. While many of our volunteer leaders are based in Texas, we do have representation from 28 states as well as from outside of the United States.

National Volunteer Appreciation Month serves as a reminder of the significant impact volunteers have on the University of Houston and its community. Their dedication and commitment help shape the University’s future and inspire others to give back.

Thank you to all our volunteer leaders. Their hard work is very much appreciated.