Bridging the Gap


How the Auburn Engineering Young Alumni Council has been creating opportunities for young alumni for more than 10 years.

For some, college graduation marks the end of the relationship with their alma mater. However, the Auburn Engineering Young Alumni Council has been working for more than 10 years to bridge that gap and show alumni that graduation is only the beginning.

In 2011, Jeff Stone, 1979 civil engineering alumnus, saw missed opportunities with skilled, eager alumni moving away without clear opportunities to stay involved with the college.

The idea for the council began with a simple question. 

“How do we reach out to these young people and get them engaged?” Stone asked himself.

Stone, the executive vice president at Brasfield & Gorrie and Auburn Alumni Engineering Council member, took the idea to then-Dean of Engineering Chris Roberts and Apryl Mullins, who served as a development coordinator in engineering advancement at the time. First, a steering committee was assembled to identify a clear strategic plan for the council. 

“We went to those young people and asked, ‘How do you want to be involved? What would that look like?’ Over a few years, it evolved and became a little more structured,” Stone said. 

Mullins, now the assistant director of corporate relations in the Engineering Office of Career Development and Corporate Relations, continued the push for the progression of this young alumni-focused group. 

“Through working for the College of Engineering and the Auburn Alumni Association, I started to develop a passion for students and young alumni,” Mullins said. “I felt like there was a huge gap between graduation and people’s first connection as an alum. This council was a passion project.” 

2014: The Young Alumni Council poses for a photo with then-Dean of Engineering Chris Roberts and the college’s namesake, Samuel Ginn, at one of its earliest meetings.

The inaugural meeting was held in May 2013, and the first council members were selected by the Alumni Engineering Council. Ben Carmichael, ’00 electrical and computer engineering and ’05 civil engineering, was chosen as the council’s first-ever chair. 

“When I graduated, I saw that there was a gap in opportunities and a real need for this council,” Carmichael said. “We wanted to create an avenue for young alumni to cultivate their affinity for Auburn while also serving. It was as simple as that.” 

Carmichael, a business development manager in Southern Company Research & Development, saw an active, enthusiastic group come together with ideas to engage students and other young alumni with Auburn. Soon, the council hosted mock interviews for students to practice their skills and social events in alumni hotspots like Birmingham and Atlanta.

After graduating in 2008 in chemical engineering and moving to Houston, Rodmesia Clarke became an original member. Through serving on the networking committee and as the council’s executive secretary, Clarke saw the ripple effect of its growing presence on campus and with students. 

“As a college student, you look around and see all these names on the walls, and there can sometimes be a disconnect between you as a new graduate and those established alumni names,” said Clarke, the director of asset management and governance at Enbridge Gas in Toronto. “It’s good to have that visual presence of young alumni and see, ‘OK, I can be engaged while I’m building my career and the next phase of my life.’” 

Thanks to staggered membership in the early days, Clarke served for six years and witnessed even more growth. The council helped build her network and fulfill her values of giving and service.

“I owe Auburn so much,” Clarke said. “Plus, Auburn is such a magical place. When you remain active, you get to be part of the magic. Staying engaged makes Auburn more than just my alma mater — it makes me feel like part of the Auburn Family.” 

Michael Keyser also sees his service on the council as an avenue to ‘give back’ what Auburn gave him in terms of scholarships, his career and, most importantly, meeting his wife, Kelly, ’15 nutrition.

“We feel like we have so much to be grateful for from the college,” Keyser said. “I feel very lucky to have opportunities to give back to the school that’s given us so much.”

Keyser graduated from Auburn in 2015 with degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering. After moving to Mobile to work for Chevron, a friend invited him to come to campus and volunteer for mock interviews.

Though a young professional, he jumped at the opportunity to advise students. Keyser was selected for the council in 2021 and is now the executive vice chair.

2018: Parker Carpenter and John McCracken participate in the council’s mock interview event, supporting students through career preparedness.

“I’m proud of what the council does, period,” said Keyser, a project manager at Mercedes-Benz in Birmingham. “I think it’s a unique group of people who have such a strong heart and passion for helping the college in whatever capacity necessary.”

Emily Traylor, ’10 wireless software engineering, experienced the gap after graduation — unsure where to start her involvement. 

“It wasn’t until in 2016 when I was selected for the Young Alumni Council that I started to get more involved with the college,” Traylor said. “That was a great way for me to get my foot in the door with alumni involvement and see what other opportunities there were.” 

She served on the council until 2022, including as executive chair for her final two years.

She now serves on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, the Computer Science and Software Engineering Business Advisory Council and as a member of 100+ Women Strong.

In addition to the opportunities the Young Alumni Council opened for her, Traylor recounts some of what she witnessed. 

“I have so many great memories from my time on the council,” said Traylor, the director of data and cybersecurity at Fullsteam. “I remember in some of the first meetings I attended discussing the new concept of this building — the ‘Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center.’ A few years later, we toured what was a construction zone, and now that building is a reality. Seeing that come to life is a great memory.”

Today, the 32 Young Alumni Council members meet biannually in the Brown-Kopel Center.

These Young Alumni Council members each serve on one of five working committees: communications and marketing, giving and engagement, mentoring, networking and professional development.

2019: The Young Alumni Council tours the construction site of the Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center that would open later that year. The center houses all student support services from recruiting and scholarships to career development resources.

Each committee works with respective on-campus offices, all in pursuit of the original purpose set at the first planning meeting in 2011: “To engage engineering young alumni with the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering by providing programming that will appeal to their volunteer interests, their networking interests and their philanthropic interests.”

According to Mullins, it’s important to establish a purpose and strategy in every program the council creates. 

“Because the council took time to develop its purpose and strategy, it has been able to stay the course as it has grown,” she said. “Laying that groundwork allowed them to have a clear direction.”  

In 2023, the council hosted more than 100 students for mock interviews and more than 200 young alumni at networking events in Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and virtually.

The council’s endowed scholarship continues to support an engineering student each year.

Molly Mathews, ’15 industrial and systems engineering, currently serves as the executive chair of the council. Mathews became a member of Auburn Engineering’s 100+ Women Strong program after her graduation and joined the council in 2017 on the networking committee. To her, the council is about turning the intangible into the tangible. 

The 2024 Young Alumni Council is made up of 32 members representing eight majors and numerous industries. The council connects young alumni through networking events at places such as Topgolf in major cities including Atlanta, Birmingham, Houston and Huntsville.

“With the Young Alumni Council, we’re able to give people a discernible way to give their time and talent,” Mathews said. “It takes the distant idea of being an involved alumnus and gives you a real way to get involved.”

And involved, they are.

“One year, one of our members flew in from Japan,” she said. “I kid you not. I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ That just tells you how dedicated our members are.”

Carmichael sees this dedication as a success story.

“I look at what the council is doing now — the people who are involved, how they’re involved and the broader net they have cast to get others involved — and it’s good to see,” Carmichael said. “We all get opportunities to try and make a difference in those things we care about, some turn out all right, and some don’t. It’s not often we can look back and think, ‘wow, this really came together well.’ I think that is true of the Auburn Engineering Young Alumni Council. It looks like success.” 

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