Starting a new chapter

Making new friends as an adult can be hard. Alumni groups around the world provide new and unexpected opportunities

Meighan Bell (BA ’06, BSW ’07) was keenly aware of how difficult establishing new connections is as an adult when she moved back to the Toronto area after eight years in London, England. 

“Coming home in my mid-30s, everyone was just at a different stage.” 

Then Bell saw a call for volunteers from her local University of Waterloo alumni chapter and she knew it could be a great opportunity to meet new people. “I think alumni have a natural bond because we share a university experience … You can reminisce about campus, but it also gives you the opportunity to network.” 

Located in 12 cities around the world, Waterloo alumni chapters offer experiences, events and opportunities for local alumni. Bell points to recent events like a Blue Jays game and a trip to the Toronto Zoo as examples of how alumni can socialize while supporting their city.

Meighan Bell



Waterloo alumni in NYC

Already well established in New York City, Hugh Sandler (BA ’03) began attending chapter events to reconnect with Waterloo and learn from its experts: “I’ve always thought that Waterloo is on the cutting edge,” he said. “It’s really focused on innovation and future-oriented thinking, and that really appeals to me.” 

Today, Sandler is on the chapter’s executive team, where he helps build engagement with fellow alumni through social and educational events. Recently, they teamed up with another alumni group in New England to host a virtual event with Nobel Laureate Donna Strickland. More than 600 alumni registered for the hour-long talk with the award-winning Waterloo physicist. 

“New York cuts two ways,” he explains. “When you’re holding events, you’re competing with this very competitive entertainment space. But on the flipside, New York is an interesting and dynamic place that attracts great people.” 

Alumni who join in chapter activities meet enthusiastic people, some new to the city, who want to get out in their local community.  

Hugh Sandler


Three alumni smiling and holding flags at the NYC chapter event

Toronto’s alumni mentorship program 

That’s exactly what Toronto chapter executives had in mind when they launched a mentorship program in June. The pilot program matched 30 pairs of seasoned professionals and young graduates. They set goals together and worked through a structured program meant to bring high value to both parties. For now, it’s open to alumni who identify as female, but the chapter hopes to expand the offering in the future.  

“I think it’s really important to give back to the next generation,” Bell said. “To give new grads help and get them set in their career really benefits the Toronto community as well.” 

While the mentorship program is unique to the Toronto area, all alumni chapters offer some form of professional development and mentorship. Sandler notes that co-op students are always welcome at chapter events in the city: “They very well may be future New York alumni. So obviously, it’s important to make sure that they know we’re here and ensure we’re providing opportunities that are useful to them.” 

The chapter opened a new career opportunity for Sandler as well. In the spring 2022 term, he became an instructor in Waterloo’s Department of Sociology and Legal Studies. It’s a new, rewarding experience for him, and a great opportunity for students to learn from a practicing attorney.  

“You never really know how things are going to play out,” he said. “You can’t always predict what the point of going to an event or making a new connection will be. Things have a weird way of working out.” 

Group of alumni at a chapter event

Waterloo alumni groups can be found everywhere, beyond the 12 chapter locations. In August, Waterloo alumni gathered for a networking lunch at The Chapter Café in Taipei, Taiwan. The event was hosted alongside a University of Toronto alumni group.