This time of year is always special. Commencement is inching closer by the day – less than four weeks away – which means that we will soon add approximately 1,600 individuals to our alumni community. As the semester winds down, there will be many celebratory events within the colleges, cultural centers, and other organizations on campus to commemorate our upcoming graduates. Each student who will walk across the stage in May has their own unique story, but on that day, everyone shares one thing in common – that they are now a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado.  

“Once a Bear, Always a Bear” is a fun Commencement tradition to shout out during the ceremony, but it is much more than just a phrase. It is symbolic of what we believe at UNC, that once you become part of our community, you will always be part of the Bear family. Oftentimes when a student graduates from a college or university, they feel like the moment they cross the stage and get their diploma in hand is the moment their relationship with the institution ends. At UNC, we take pride in keeping our alumni community engaged with their alma mater – and in many cases – engaged with our current students.  

Last week was a perfect example of this. Bryan Snyder ‘09, director of team nutrition with the Denver Broncos, came back to campus to visit with our student-athletes to discuss, among many things, the importance of eating a healthy diet, hydrating, and recovering properly. Bryan is in his 14th year in a full-time role with the Broncos but also works with the Denver Nuggets and Avalanche in a consulting role. He shared the same advice and guidelines around nutrition that he gives to the Denver professional athletes with our UNC student-athletes. Bryan was kind enough to give three different presentations on campus and spend time interacting with students afterwards, including some in our Nutrition and Dietetics program who may have an interest in following a similar career path. 

Bryan’s willingness to give back his time to our students is reflective of his servant mindset, but it is also credit to the extraordinary experience he had at UNC and his desire to stay connected to his alma mater. Bryan is a great example of how far a UNC education can take you, but it is also an example of how our alumni give back to our university and students in many ways – and we are thankful for every example. Alumna Stephanie Klixbull ‘13 was also recently on campus speaking to students – in this case – future teachers, on the importance of STEM in elementary education. Stephanie was selected to the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program in Washington D.C., where she is collaborating with the Department of Defense to promote STEM education to drive interest in STEM-based career paths. More details on Stephanie’s visit to campus can be read here 

One way that many alumni choose to give back is financially – and we are fortunate to have many individuals do so this month through two of our signature events – Women’s Walk and Bears Give Back Day. Last weekend, we were thrilled to raise nearly $30,000 in support of our female student-athletes thanks to our Women’s Walk participants and sponsor organizations. This money will go a long way in impacting our female student-athletes, and there is no better time to celebrate this with the 50th anniversary of Title IX coming up in June. As you will read more about in this edition of UNC Monthly, Bears Give Back Day is the culmination of our university community coming together to support our students and the areas they are most passionate about. I am grateful for every donor we have and look forward to seeing the Bear spirit in full effect during our day of giving on Thursday. 

As we prepare to welcome many individuals into the alumni community next month, I hope they don’t think of Commencement as a “farewell,” but rather a “see you later.” I know our alumni reading this will welcome these new graduates into their network with open arms. And this month is just another example of how invested our entire community is in supporting our students and enhancing the institution. These six words really do ring true: Once a Bear, Always a Bear.