2018 Black Alumni Reunion will #RaiseTheBAR: Q&A with Tracey Baker

Diane Espy
July 12, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Black Alumni Reunion (BAR) is scheduled for Sept. 21–23 at University Park. This event is an opportunity to visit Penn State and reconnect with friends and meet current students.

BAR is a biennial event that brings African-American alumni together for a weekend of fun and networking. The reunion aims to keep alumni engaged with the University, the Alumni Association, and students of color. The BAR committee routinely partners with the Office of Educational Equity to raise funds for the African American Alumni Organization Trustee Scholarship that benefits students of color.

This year, the Penn State Alumni Association asked Tracey Baker, 1993 Penn State graduate and reunion co-chair, to answer a few questions.

Q: What does the Black Alumni Reunion mean to the Penn State community? 

A: The BAR is about representation. Many people — alumni and friends — have a specific idea about what kind of place Penn State is and what kind of student attends Penn State. The value of the BAR is that it highlights that the University is a diverse and inclusive place. Also, students of color benefit in seeing, meeting and engaging with alumni who look like them and have been successful with their Penn State degree. A primary component of the weekend is the opportunity to meet with and mentor students.

Q: How does it feel to come back to your alma mater with others that had shared experiences? What’s the benefit of attending?

A: The benefit of attending is the ability to maintain the connections with the University and other alumni. We had one alumnus who attended in 2016 after not having been on campus since he graduated. He was surprised to learn about all the things the University has done and to see how the campus has changed. He became a member of the Alumni Association. We have several alumni become mentors through the Alumni Association and their colleges. We had a number of alumni donate to the University. I think the true value of the BAR is not just the fun of the weekend, but also the impact that we make on the Penn State community. 

Q: What gets you excited about returning for the weekend?

A: I love everything about State College. As you know, Penn State has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. The nostalgia of reliving my youth for a weekend with my sorority sisters and friends is a definite draw for me. Because I'm involved in the Alumni Association by serving on Alumni Council, I also use it as an opportunity to connect with Alumni Association and University staff.

Q: How do the attendees connect with current students while they are on campus? What does it mean to come back and interact with students?

A: The weekend usually includes a networking reception with alumni and students. We pair students with alumni in their college or chosen career field and give them the opportunity to talk with alumni about their future career goals. I think that it means a lot to alumni and students. Usually, alumni and students end up making an ongoing connection and gain informal mentors. I have spoken with students and they all say that they appreciate having access to alumni who understand their concerns and have had similar experiences at Penn State.

Q: What kind of impact does this reunion have on the community of black students and alumni? Talk more about the support system and network of individuals who help build friendship and the Penn State community.

A: Again, I think the impact is continual engagement. The alumni, in particular, use social media to maintain connections. We share information about what other black alumni are doing in their fields and we celebrate their achievements as a community. At the BAR, we recognize alumni for their impact in the chosen fields. We also contribute to scholarship funds that benefit minority students.

Q: Does BAR help with continued alumni involvement with Penn State and its community? Tell me about the African American Alumni Organizations (AAAOs), which are Alumni Interest Groups through the Penn State Alumni Association.

A: The AAAOs are important because they provide local and regional opportunities for the alumni to connect in some major metro areas (Atlanta, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.) where they may live or work. Since the BAR is once every other year and because some alumni are unable to attend every BAR, the AAAOs fill in the gaps in keeping us engaged. The game watches are always a highlight of their events, but we also do community service and networking as well. This is important because it brings alumni together from various eras and decades. 

Q: What else would you like our members to know about BAR?

A: I’d mentioned that we raise funds to benefit Educational Equity at Penn State. We have established a Penn State AAAO Emergency Fund this year for students who may be experiencing a short-term crisis. It allows Educational Equity to assist them. It's not a scholarship, but more of a discretionary fund for the vice provost to use for students, as needed. To donate, go to giveto.psu.edu/AAAOEmergencyFund. Proceeds from the 2018 Black Alumni Reunion will benefit the Penn State AAAO Emergency Program Fund.

Learn more information about the 2018 Black Alumni Reunion online. For questions, email allthingspsubar@gmail.com. On Facebook, search "Penn State Black Alumni Reunion" to find reunion information on social media.

  • Trace Baker_Alumni Association Q&A photo

    "The value of the Black Alumni Reunion is that it highlights that the University is a diverse and inclusive place," said Tracey Baker, a 1993 Penn State graduate who serves as reunion co-chair. 

    IMAGE: Penn State Alumni Association
Last Updated July 12, 2018