October Letter to Alumni from Gillette Vaira

In September, I drove on I-15 through the Helena National Forest, making my way from an alumni meeting in Helena to the Buzzin’ Beyond Billings alumni event in Great Falls. I have lived in Montana my entire life, albeit on the eastern half, and I have never before experienced this level of magnificence.

I was shocked by the jagged red and brown rocks towering on either side of the road. It was simply breathtaking. I couldn’t wait for what I’d see next, as I twisted around the corners. It was one natural surprise of beauty after the other!

As a native Montanan, how could I have not known about this scenic trek? I’d driven to Helena, and I’d driven to Great Falls – but I never took the time to journey between the two communities. In fact, this charming adventure is just a few hours from where I live, and I had no idea what I was missing.

My picturesque drive parallels with what could be your experience with the Alumni Association. Sure, I knew about the forest – just like you’ve known about the Alumni Association. I knew the drive would probably be pretty – just like you know we have alumni events that are probably fun. Just like I took a chance on the drive between Helena and Great Falls, if you choose to participate in the Alumni Association, you’ll have the opportunity to embark upon an experience like never before.

What’s different this time?

1 – We’re coming to you. We are establishing alumni teams throughout Montana and the U.S. Are you interested in starting one? We’d love to help you connect with and feel the presence of the MSU Billings alumni network in your own community. An alumnus in Helena is already on his way to starting an alumni team there – and we have a task force of alumni dedicated to starting these teams. We’re serious about being a part of your communities – so give me a call, and we’ll get started.

2 – We’re not hosting the same types of events and programs. We’re focusing on what you want, as alumni, and how we can best serve you. For example, alumni entrepreneurs in cities throughout Montana are asking us to host alumni get-togethers at their businesses. So, we are! And, alumni are having a blast! You don’t have to own a business to share your feedback or suggest alumni activities. We’ve had several requests – so send us yours! If it fits into our calendar and our budget, we can make it happen.

3 – We’re getting your feedback. In each town we visit, we’re hosting focus groups, so alumni can share their feedback on how MSU Billings and the Alumni Association can be better partners. But we’re not only getting your feedback – we’re also doing something about it. For instance, after a focus group in Billings, we learned that alumni want professional alumni attire. So, we’ve partnered with the Campus Store, and we’re launching an alumni clothing line this month! (Have you checked it out yet?) Call us, message us, or stop by the Alumni House. We want to hear your ideas.

I hadn’t made time for that western Montana drive, and now, I’m so glad I did. Why not make time for the Alumni Association? We’re looking for passionate leaders and influencers who want to give back to their alma mater, share ideas, and take action. Are you excited to help us get there? Then, join us! It will be fabulous.

With enthusiasm,

Gillette Vaira, M.A.

MSU Billings Class of 2009

(406) 247-5781 | gillette.vaira@msubillings.edu