This spring, the University of Waterloo is expanding its global alumni network with the new Ottawa Alumni Chapter. UWaterloo chapters build community among local alumni, students and friends by bringing them together for a variety of programs and events. Led by alumni volunteers, chapters provide a wide variety of programming tailored to the culture in their local region — including mentorship programs, socials, networking events and family-friendly activities.   

The Ottawa chapter will officially launch on May 1, 2024, with a special celebration held at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Local alumni and students are invited to join for refreshments, casual networking and a panel discussion on happiness and community building.  

Building personal connection 

Lisa TranLisa Tran (BA ’17) is a Human Resources professional and a volunteer leading the Ottawa chapter. She’s excited to offer new ways for alumni to meet each other and socialize in a city that has a reputation for being quiet.  

“The culture here is that after your nine-to-five, you’re pretty much done. Go home and rest. So having an alumni chapter feels like an exclusive club in a way, where you get to do activities with your fellow alumni. Knowing that there might be an opportunity to socialize with new people is exciting.” 

Robert Beamish (BA ’15), another local alum and expert in community building, echoes Lisa’s sentiment: “Ottawa is a tricky city because a lot of people come here for work, and they’re very passionate about that work. The social scene in Ottawa can be difficult to navigate, and it can be hard to break into networks and social circles.” 

As co-chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Network at Global Affairs Canada, Robert knows the value of building a community where people feel they belong. Robert was recently selected for the coveted role of global shaper, which allowed him to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January, along with 50 other young changemakers around the world. He used this opportunity to speak about the importance of bridging communities, raising marginalized voices and engaging with Indigenous Peoples.  

Robert BeamishRobert believes the Ottawa Alumni Chapter will offer valuable personal connections and fulfillment in the local alumni community: “We have something in common outside of work. We can learn from each other professionally, but that’s not the only thing we have in common. Finding ways to build community around [personal interests] is really important to feel like you have a sense of belonging — to really feel like you’re a part of something as opposed to just a cog or piece of machinery.” 

Lisa is excited to offer new options to socialize with other UWaterloo alumni in the city, while staying true to Ottawa’s unique culture and community. She and her chapter co-chair are conducting discovery chats with local alumni to find out what kinds of events they want to have. So far, alumni have shown an interest in attending professional sports games, as well as exploring the local parks, restaurants and farmer’s markets. Chapter volunteers also plan to host events with a focus on professional development and networking. Alumni in the Ottawa area are invited share their own interests and suggestions by emailing the chapter volunteers

Supporting more than alumni 

Lisa is quick to point out that these programs will be available to students too. Co-op, exchange and even prospective students are regularly included in chapter programming. For many students, chapter events are a great introduction to a network they will join soon and a valuable resource as they explore a new city. 

Robert knows this experience well, from his time as a co-op student in Hong Kong: “I landed in a place where I was having to navigate a different culture, to navigate a different work environment. Thanks to local alumni, I was able to ask those questions that you might feel dumb asking your supervisor. It made me feel like I belonged and had a sense of community.” 

Lisa hopes that seeing an active alumni community will encourage students to stay in the Ottawa area after graduation as well. The city offers a diverse array of career opportunities in government, technology, academia and more. Plus, growing the alumni network in a particular area can have a strong impact on the local community.  

Chapters can bring alumni, students and organizations together in meaningful ways that can open new doors for the local community — through charitable support, new business ventures and partnerships. It’s one of the many ways that UWaterloo builds connections that create a positive impact on the world.  

For Lisa, it all begins with personal connections. Most of all, she’s excited to meet new people: “Being able to broaden my network and reach out to different people — it’s what I love to do.”