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Published: December 13, 2017 Author: Natalie Trusso Cafarello

OHIO’s Ebony Bobcat Network (EBN), a program of the OHIO Alumni Association, received several awards at the Pride of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s (CASE) V Awards for its success in the growth of its programs.  

The awards were distributed at the CASE V conference held in Chicago from Dec.10 to 12.

The Ebony Bobcat Network received the Gold Award for Best Diversity Program. The Association’s 2016 Black Alumni Reunion (BAR) planning committee earned a Silver Award for Best Volunteer Engagement Program. The 2016 BAR Talent Show, earned the Bronze Award for Best Student Alumni Programming.

The 2016 BAR themed “Straight Outta OHIO!”, was alumni-driven and reconnected Bobcats with their alma mater.

Part of BAR’s success was that it integrated students and alumni in the planning and execution of the energetic event.

The gold award

EBN’s award-winning expansion beyond its founding city of Cleveland is proof that good news travels fast.

A society of black alumni and friends, EBN was officially founded in Cleveland in 2011. Affiliates in Columbus, Cincinnati-Dayton, Washington D.C. and Chicago have been established since then. David Bambrey, the Association’s interim assistant vice president of alumni relations and interim executive director, said the EBN Cleveland volunteers led the expansion effort.

“EBN Cleveland was solid with programming and volunteers. They were the perfect group to partner with to expand our diversity efforts to other areas,” he said. “We provided them with additional resources in order to expand, and they took the ball and ran with it.”

EBN’s success in expanding its programing is partly because of alumni learning of EBN Cleveland’s success and expressing a desire to be part of the network, said EBN co-founder LaWanna McKinley White, BSED ’65.

“That’s how Cincinnati-Dayton came on board. They came on like a ball of fire. We love them because they push the rest of us to excel more,” she said.

McKinley White, EBN president from 2012 to 2016, said the appeal comes from its mission that goes beyond coming together, socializing and maintaining that “very special Ohio University bond.” The group was motivated by former OHIO President Roderick J. McDavis to give back in time, talent and treasure, specifically to OHIO’s Urban Scholars program.

“We had a mission to give back so that more urban students like us would have an opportunity to succeed at Ohio University,” she said.

EBN hosts student-parent events that introduce prospective high school students and their families to the Bobcat family.

EBN also recognizes outstanding black alumni by giving its Trailblazer Award at the BAR, a homecoming that takes place on the Athens Campus every three years.

Most importantly, McKinley White said, EBN brings together OHIO’s African-American alumni of various ages and generations, who also assist in launching its events and initiatives.

 “If you have a germ [seed] of an idea and you put it out there and other people build on it, it becomes bigger, better, and stronger than you could ever do,” she said

Kellea Tibbs, the Association’s assistant director of campus relations, said EBN affinity groups help bring Bobcats together in cities where alumni are spread out over a large metropolitan area. A recent event hosted by EBN for all alumni before a Washington Wizards game was sold out, she said.

The silver and bronze awards

The 2016 BAR, which won the Pride of CASE V Silver Award for Best Volunteer Engagement Program, also was an alumni-driven project. The 20-member planning committee consisted of 12 alumni, two from each decade.

“The planning committee had such good representation from so many different classes and generations. We all brought a different mindset and things that were important to our class and our decade,” committee member Jillian Causey, BS ’13, said.

More than 1,000 alumni and friends registered to attend one or more of the 32 events that took place during the 2016 BAR.

Causey, an Association board member, said BAR’s events provided OHIO’s African-American students a chance to talk to and, “see other alumni that look like them, who are successful in the fields the students are interested in.”

One of the most memorable events was the BAR Talent Show, where alumni and students brought their A game to an evening of performances. It earned the CASE V Bronze Award for Best Student Alumni Programming.

“It was inspiring and fun to be able to sit and remember your time at OHIO and how we all used to be part of talent shows or attend them,” Causey recalled.

The Association also was awarded a CASE V Silver Award for Best New Alumni Program for the inaugural Food Truck Festival during the 2017 On the Green Weekend.

CASE is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals who work on their behalf in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and allied areas. 

OHIO University's BAR

Alumnae Jillian Causey, left, and Lynnette Henderson, right, enjoy the photo booth at the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion. Both took part in planning the award-winning event.