Sigma Frater Named Associate Director of Diversity Outreach and Engagement of the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association
Justin Gibson, Bus ’05, has joined the staff of the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association (UCAA) as a. In this newly defined role with the organization, Gibson will formalize a diversity and inclusion plan for UCAA, implement and evaluate programs that strategically engage and serve a variety of alumni network activities, manage the relationship with affiliated alumni groups such as the UC African American Alumni Affiliate, LGBTQ initiatives, Golden Bearcats and women’s alumnae groups and nurture the future growth of diversity programs for the association.
“We are gratified and excited about Justin’s arrival and his ability to fill this important organization need so perfectly,” said Jennifer L. Heisey, ’97, executive director of the UC Alumni Association and vice president of alumni relations for the UC Foundation. “We serve and represent every single person who has come through the university — nearly 300,000 living alumni in all — and we work to ensure that each of them feels a strong connection to the university through UCAA’s efforts. Justin will play a major role in fulfilling that mission.”
Gibson is uniquely qualified to bring strength and value to UCAA, and he calls his appointment to the UCAA team a “natural career transition.” A Darwin T. Turner Scholar, he was a student government leader during his years on campus and was extremely involved in campus life as he earned a marketing degree from the Lindner College of Business. He later worked at the university for three years as an academic advisor for the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. Most recently, Gibson worked within the higher education field at Hobson’s as an account executive, where he partnered with various colleges and universities (including UC) to utilize software solutions to help promote student retention.
As an alumnus, Gibson has served as an at-large member of the UCAA Board of Governors as well as on the executive committees of the UC African American Alumni Affiliate (UC4A) and the UC Young Professionals (UCYP) alumni networks. He has also served as local chapter president of his national fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, and as a member of the Sigma Sigma Men’s Honorary.
Gibson answered some questions to help his fellow alumni become familiar with his new position and his personal commitment to the work he will be doing for the UC Alumni Association:
What makes this position with the UC Alumni Association so personally compelling?
“I understand how and why the UC Alumni Association and UC Foundation want to work with these groups of alumni who have a special affinity for their alma mater — to help them get re-engaged and recall what they love about their time at the university, and ultimately increase their involvement. I feel this desire as an engaged alumnus myself, and I want to help share that with my fellow alumni to elevate their engagement as well as the alumni association’s profile. This is meaningful and important work with a dedicated staff of people who enjoy what they do. It’s a team I’m proud to join.”
What do you bring to the position that is unique?
“In my years as an active alumnus, I’ve already established relationships with the staff at the UCAA and UC Foundation, as well as with the people in the alumni groups with which I’ll be working. In particular, I’m a former board member of UCAA’s African American Alumni Affiliate so I inherently understand its perspectives and goals. I have also served on UCAA’s Board of Governors so I understand the direction that Jennifer Heisey and her fellow Advancement leaders have outlined for the organization. I believe I can help move the needle on some of our long-term goals.”
Looking back, what stands out about your UC student experience?
“While I’ve met many incredible people who have enriched my life, what jumps out the most is my time as a Darwin T. Turner Scholar and realizing that it was UC alumni who cared enough about me and showed enough belief in me — without knowing me — to generously support my pursuit of my academic and career goals. Even now as I still support the Turner Scholars program, I retain this feeling of gratitude and responsibility — that it’s my job to pay it forward to today’s students because others sacrificed to do the same for me.
“I really appreciate my work with my fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, and with the UC men’s honorary Sigma Sigma, where I’m still on the board. Also, I continue to be thankful for my opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica for Habitat for Humanity. The university afforded me that chance; I’d never been to another country to see how its people live, work and worship. That was a life-changing event for me. There are truly many reasons why I love the university, and why anytime UC needs me, I’ll do my best to answer the call.”
What stands out about your decade-plus as an alumnus?
“It’s the passion for the university within the alumni groups with whom I’ve worked. The best things about being a Bearcat do not end when they play ‘Pomp and Circumstance.’ Commencement is just the launching pad. And my association with UC as an involved alumnus has provided opportunities for engagement, service, professional development and travel. We can always carry our Bearcat experience with us by coming back for Alumni Weekend or Homecoming and being involved with our Greek organization or college.”
What will constitute success in your new outreach and engagement efforts?
“I want the volunteers with whom I’ll be working to know they have an advocate with the UCAA — someone they can talk with and who will be a conduit from their group to the UCAA. We want to make sure everyone’s priorities are aligned and we’re working toward the same goals — to create pathways that lead to success.”
What is your personal philosophy with respect to how diversity and inclusion are inherently part of UCAA’s role in the UC community?
“In its purest sense, UC’s primary motto, Juncta Juvant (“strength in unity”), means that it takes all of us — that we’re all part of the same family working together. Regardless of how you arrived at UC, what kept you at UC and what your alumni experience has been like, our best days will occur when everyone feels included and is contributing to making UC a better place. It’s going to be my job to help make sure that happens — that future generations might enjoy the same awesome experience I have had. That’s what I’ll work for. No matter what your background, your belief or your orientation, there’s a place here at UC for you.”