You are viewing Vol. 11 Issue 5 May 2019
CCU Atheneum: Diane Sanders '05 is the director of the alumni office.
Diane Sanders '05 is the director of the alumni office.

Get to know Diane Sanders ‘05: Building teal connections for years to come

by Connor Uptegrove
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Beside an inflatable bounce-house in the cool air of a Saturday afternoon in October, the trunk of cars pop open, meat smokes on a portable grill and young children play with teal footballs in a parking lot outside Coastal Carolina University’s Brooks Stadium.

Old friends catch up as their children play together, and on the rear bumper of the cars lined up for rows, stickers sporting more than 60 different graduation classes join together to celebrate the University.

One of those cars belongs to Diane Sanders, who stands among her friends and family at the event, but she’s not your average alumna. The 2005 graduate is also the executive director of alumni relations at her alma mater and the organizer of many events on campus, including the tailgates ... er, TEALgates.

“There’s just something about the feel of football games in the fall,” said Sanders. “People with young families love to come to campus.”

As the head of alumni relations, Sanders’ job is to recognize where graduates are in their adulthood post college. She recognizes that many have families and many live far away. She seeks to find opportunities for those graduates to still have a bit of teal in lives. This comes naturally to her. She’s in their shoes.

“I try to think about where I am with myself and my kids,” said Sanders. “What would they want to see? [Doing this job] is what gets me out of bed in the morning.”

Asking herself what her family would want to see inspires family-friendly activities, such as the bounce-house. It takes her to cities, such as Washington D.C., Seattle and Boston, to connect with alumni who can’t get away for on-campus festivities.

Sanders does more than organize the events. She brings her husband, Aarron, and their two children, Dylan and Ethan, to the games. Three-year-old Dylan, the unofficial president of the Chauncey fan club, attends the child development center on campus. One-year-old Ethan, a future CCU All-American athlete, is fascinated with any ball he can get his hands on.

“CCU has been such a big part of our family’s life,” said Sanders. “We want to make it a part of the lives of CCU alumni, too.”

Bryan Steros, interim vice president for philanthropy, believes that her history with CCU exemplifies what it means to have strong relationships with individuals on and off campus.

“Diane is the perfect fit to lead our alumni relations office and its initiatives,” said Steros. “She is very well connected with our growing alumni base and is a strong and passionate leader.”

Sanders began her work at CCU after graduating with a musical theatre degree 12 years ago. She began working at CCU professionally in the admissions office recruiting prospective students but slowly shifted to working with former students. While she admits that there have been many developments to the appearance of campus, the heart of the University is still the same.

“There are days I’m here that I think ‘this hasn’t changed a bit,’” said Sanders. “It’s still a close-knit community, despite the fact that it’s doubled in size.”

Some aspects of her relationship with CCU have stayed the same. She enjoys catching up with her former professors and still considers them mentors. She began her education as a marine science major before moving to the theater department, and her experiences frequently bring her to the office of Robin Edwards-Russell, associate professor of theater, or to the stretch of offices in the science buildings.

“I’m still learning from the faculty at CCU,” said Sanders. “It feels like a bonus that I get more time with them.”

When Sanders reflects on her college experience and career at Coastal Carolina University, she believes that the chapter after wearing the cap and gown embodies just as much of a community as her chapter on campus.

“I look at alumni who are my age and I think about how we are going to be the ones to take CCU to the next level,” said Sanders.

She believes that alumni continuing to have a voice at CCU in the years to come will set the tone for the legacy of their classes.

As graduates grow older and move through the stages of their lives, Sanders will grow with them. She frequently thinks about how her children will grow with the University she attended, how they could one day also have an acting class with Edwards-Russell or walk through Blanton Park for a marine science course.

“My kids will grow up in a completely different way because they will grow up with this place,” said Sanders.
While her position mostly provides moments of reconnection, she believes a connection to new faces is just as crucial and hopes to continue to build a legacy of teal.

In her office, overlooking Blanton Park and Singleton Hall—recognized as the pinnacle landmark for the past 65 years of Coastal Carolina University—Sanders looks forward to leaving her mark for generations to come.

 

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