From left: Roberto Williams ’18, Elisha Dumont ’18, Linda Levine ’77, and Pablo Milla ’18 attended a Welcome to the Neighborhood event at The Federal North Hollywood last month. Photo/Tommy McArdle ’19
By Tommy McArdle ’19
More than 65 Emerson College alumni descended on The Federal North Hollywood during a Welcome to the Neighborhood event sponsored by the Los Angeles Alumni Network in late September. Graduates from as recently as Spring 2018 crowded the bar to socialize and reconnect with old friends, share stories about their time at Emerson, and build connections with other alumni.
“It was a great turnout,” said Gia Galligani ’98, president of the LA Alumni Network.
Welcome to the Neighborhood was the first event organized by the new Los Angeles Alumni Network, which spent the last few months reorganizing itself and re-framing its mission. Alumni in cities across the nation, from New York to LA, took part in the Welcome to the Neighborhood series this fall.
The new LA Alumni Network Board members include Galligani, president; Galen D’Atillio ’06, co-vice president of networking and programs; Caroline Edwards ’10, co-vice president of networking and programs; Liz Vacovec, MA’11, co-vice president of networking and programs; Charvelle Holder ’13, president of the LA EBONI Alumni Association; Gemma Simko ’13, chair of communications and engagement; Aimee Rivera ’07, chair of the Emerson LA Film Festival; Ross Girard ’08, co-chair of professional development; and Mark McCune ’12, co-chair of professional development.
Board members said they are committed to increasing engagement between alumni in the LA area and the College itself. Girard said talking to Emersonians at the event confirmed to him that alumni are excited about getting involved with the College again.
“I definitely got the sense that people want to give back and help students, help other alumni, and help each other,” Girard said. “Everybody wants that because everybody likes that sense of community, and Emerson was an important part of all of our lives.”
Galligani said she wants to help bring back alumni who have not engaged with the College in recent years, as well as let soon-to-be graduates know they can count on Emerson’s continued support as they transition to working in the industry. She was encouraged by the success of Emerson’s first-ever alumni job fair held in November 2017, which was born from the desire of alumni to participate in more events utilizing the College’s connections in LA. On November 3, 2018, the Network will host another job fair that will aim to attract a wider range of alumni, from recent graduates to those in the midst of their professional careers.
“We have great momentum,” Galligani said. “People are seeing some consistency. Now that the train is back on track, we want to crank it up.”
Much of the inspiration to build a well organized and active alumni network in LA stems from a desire to strengthen and boost Emerson’s visibility in the entertainment industry. Aimee Rivera ’07, a creative executive at the production company SkyDance Media, said the best way to increase the College’s footprint is to engage with Emersonians who have found success in the industry.
“I feel like [alumni] could really benefit from having more industry insight and perspective,” Rivera said. “We’re a fantastic school with fantastic talent and we should have more recognition in this town.”
The Board will work closely with Emerson LA’s Associate Director of Alumni Engagement and alumna Melinda Valente ’97, MA ’99, who will serve as a liaison between the Network and College.
“Being relatively new to this position, I am thrilled to be working with such a talented and dedicated group of alumni,“ she said. “I look forward to partnering with this group as we work to strengthen the alumni community in LA, and to increase the visibility of the College throughout the city as well.”
Board members said the physical presence of Emerson’s Los Angeles Center, which opened in 2014, is an advantage toward cementing the College’s mark in the city. Girard said that while the new building might feel intimidating to some alumni, everyone should feel free to take advantage of their alma mater’s growing presence in LA.
“It’s a really cool idea that we can be part of the community even if we don’t go to school there anymore,” said Girard, who often books space in the Bright Family Screening Room.
Galligani stressed that in order to build off the Alumni Network’s early successes, there needs to be consistent dialogue between the leadership at the College and alumni across the spectrum, from recent graduates to entertainment industry veterans.
“We want to listen to the alumni; we want to be an open door,” Galligani said. “If something is working or not working, we want to encourage people to just tell us.”