Office of Alumni Relations

The latest news from Virginia Commonwealth University

By Cynthia McMullen (M.A.’89/H&S)

Established in 1991, National Volunteer Month — an annual event that pays tribute to the dedicated, caring people without whom many organizations could not exist — is celebrating its big 3-0.

At VCU, “Alumni volunteers are the backbone of our alumni community,” says Elizabeth Bass (M.S.W.’03/SW), assistant vice president for alumni relations. “From event volunteers to mentors to our volunteer leaders with chapters, boards and councils, we are truly appreciative of the over 1,000 alumni who give their time, commitment and passion for VCU every day.” 

Why volunteer with your alma mater? “There is the social aspect, meeting people,” says VCU volunteer Skye Mullarkey (M.S.’09/H&S). “But volunteering is like a continuing education for me.

“To have a different experience and learn something new helps keep you fresh. And you might be able to apply what you learn to your work and your life. I get a lot out of it.”

For many who love to give back, volunteering is a way of life. We asked three of our own VCU volunteers to share why they donate their time and their talents.

Wherever you live, whatever your interests, VCU offers a plethora of volunteer possibilities. Join us!

KAVITHA CHUNCHU, M.D. (B.S.’02/H&S; M.D.’06/M)
At-large member, VCU Alumni board of governors

Born in India, Kavitha Chunchu moved to Virginia at age 1 with her family. When it came time for college, she toured several universities. But she loved Richmond and the opportunity to enroll in the Guaranteed Admission Program for Medicine while pursuing her biology degree. Chunchu lives in Everett, Washington.

What’s your day job?
I have been a family medicine physician with the Everett Clinic for 11 years and hold a leadership role as medical director.

What led to volunteering with VCU?
I was in a place at work that I had capacity, and I had always thought: How can I be involved, even though I am on the West Coast? I’m interested in finding ways to help students engage with VCU after graduation. I am now an at-large member of the VCU Alumni board of governors; I thought it might be an interesting way to get to know the university in a different way. It’s been fun to interact with people who are passionate about VCU and Richmond. I appreciate all the perspectives and dialogues surrounding alumni engagement.

What does your volunteer work entail?
The board meets quarterly, and there are subcommittee meetings. A couple of years ago, I was on campus for a meeting and asked if I could do anything to help with STAT [Students Today Alumni Tomorrow]. They arranged a lunch with undergraduate students; it was fun to reflect and connect over shared concerns, our love of the city and what had changed [since I graduated] and what hadn’t. I also have participated in the Seattle Chapter — I had no idea how many VCU graduates are out here! The pandemic has made it harder, but people have been quite engaged. I just enjoy the spirit of volunteerism.

Leader, Atlanta Chapter

Originally from Delaware, Skye Mullarkey stayed in Richmond a couple of years after completing her master’s degree in forensic science with a concentration in chemistry/drugs and toxicology. “Still pretty jazzed up about VCU,” she moved to the Atlanta area and settled in Hapeville, Georgia. Her current to-do list includes planning her upcoming wedding.

What’s your day job?
I have been working in forensic toxicology at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for coming up on 10 years now.

What led to volunteering with VCU?
A friend who graduated in the same program was in Atlanta, and a group got together, informally, for basketball watch parties. It was a nice way to get involved and meet new people. Then I started stepping up as a backup for Atlanta Chapter events; when the leader moved in 2016, I assumed the position.

What does your volunteer work entail?
Our chapter promotes engagement opportunities for alumni in the greater Atlanta area. Some programming comes directly from the VCU alumni office, such as the ELEVATE Tour, but we have free reign with a lot of our activities. With COVID, we’ve been doing a lot of great virtual programming … although we are definitely itching to get back to in-person programming! Our events range from happy hours to Braves games, cookouts and, of course, lots of watch parties. When the ELEVATE Tour came through, we did a Habitat for Humanity build and toured the CDC Museum. I love volunteering in general; I also volunteer here with the historic Oakland Cemetery and the PGA Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. I volunteered when the Super Bowl was here in 2019 and was supposed to volunteer for March Madness last year … but COVID got in the way. 

Vice president, Latinx Alumni Council

Having grown up in Chesterfield, Virginia, Maria-Cristina Gavilan graduated from VCU with a degree in Spanish; her family is originally from Colombia.

What’s your day job?
I have been an admissions specialist focusing on outreach initiatives at the University of Houston for nearly four years. Being bilingual comes in handy in many situations: There’s a huge undocumented population; we have 1,000 to 1,500 DACA students; and I have represented UH in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador and Costa Rica in addition to Texas, New Mexico and California.

What led to volunteering with VCU?
As a student, I volunteered with the person who started the Latinx Alumni Council. I wanted to continue volunteering after graduating because I knew a lot of people passionate about VCU, especially in the Latinx community. Many of us had volunteered with Latinx programs supported by Virginia’s Hispanic College Institute, Sacred Heart Center and The Bridge Community Development Center. So I got involved with the alumni council. And in  Texas, I met fellow alumni through the Houston Chapter.

What does your volunteer work entail?
I am vice president of the Latinx Alumni Council. The past year has definitely been different. A lot of people are Zoomed out! But one event we were really happy about was a virtual kind of holiday mixer/fundraiser for La Clínica del Pueblo medical center in the Washington, D.C., area. We try to sponsor cultural events that also will provide networking opportunities and support the community. We recently had a paint night and have played Loteria [similar to bingo]. In Houston, I also have volunteered with the Boys & Girls Clubs and community engagement projects in our office.

Categories Alumni