Photo by Lauren Olson, Photography Editor 

Miami alumni honored for accomplishments

By Alexandria Moore, For The Miami Student

Eighteen Miami alumni from the last nine graduating classes were formally recognized for their professional accomplishments and named “18 Of the Last 9” Honorees on Wednesday, Sept. 24. These young professionals represent some of most successful alumni from the 2005-2013 graduating classes.

Inspired by the format of “30 under 30,” a common award given to successful young college graduates. The name “18 Of the Last 9” (18 Of 9) is a tribute to 1809, Miami’s year of founding. The program is in its second year and has already expanded to include networking events in Columbus, Cincinnati and Washington D.C., where nominees are encouraged to meet their peers and establish connections both with each other and the university. 

Already, 18 Of 9 has attracted attention; the program’s inaugural year garnered “silver winner” status for Best Alumni Relations Programs, awarded by CASE Circle of Excellence. It is considered among the most prestigious awards to receive in the field of Advancement. 

Behind this success is Jonathan Moore, who has worked for Miami University since August 2012 as the assistant director of chapters and groups in the Office of Alumni Relations. Moore, who is a Miami alumnus himself, had a primary focus in connecting the stages of a Miamian’s academic and professional career.

In chartering this program, Moore and the selection committee had one core goal. 

“We wanted to think about people who are building business, excelling in their chosen field, improving the world,” Moore said.

Through a social media blast, Miami’s alumni network and faculty were asked to nominate recent graduates who are excelling in their fields. The social media push percolated 140 unique nominations from a total of 180 submissions. The 18 Of 9 committee then read every submission and were asked to speak on behalf of who they believed to be the strongest candidates, and the voting process established the final 18. 

Once the honorees were chosen, they were asked if there are any alumni whom they admired. This represents the next phase of the program, which is to connect further back and bridge the gap between established Miami alumni. 

“The next crop are already doing great things but could be doing better with guidance and mentorship,” Moore said.

One such individual is Dan Hayes (’05), a 2013 recipient of the 18 Of 9 honor award, who is a co-founder of Freethink Media, a creative agency and video production company focused on integrated multimedia campaigns and media production. He is better known as the director of Honor Flight, the 2012 critically-acclaimed documentary that holds the Guinness World Record for largest film screening. 

“It was such an honor to be recognized,” Hayes said. “I loved reconnecting to Miami and everyone there, definitely hope to continue involvement with the program.”

This award is more than just an honor, though. Moore said it is also a way to connect young, accomplished alumni to their predecessors.

“A lot of times you communicate with people who are the destination, who graduated in ‘80 or ‘90 and it’s tough to understand how you get there,” Moore said. “We wanted to really connect these young alumni who are still on the journey, who can talk to the students. It’s often easier to identify with those people.” 

Among this year’s recipients are NBA basketball player Chester Mason (’05), stand-up comedian and television writer Beth Stelling (’07) and Cheryl Murray Miyamasu (’05), the CEO of Jeevan Aadhar Transformative Aftercare Services, an organization based in Mumbai that focuses on “holistic transitional care” for survivors of human trafficking. The list goes on, including musicians, business owners, physicians and educators. 

This diverse range of success establishes a strong network of young professionals across numerous disciplines. This was the primary goal of 18 Of 9, Moore said. 

The nominees were whittled down to a group of 18 representatives from all the colleges, as well as different academic and career focuses. The result is an eclectic group that represents the wide range of success Miami alumni have achieved. 

Despite this, trends and patterns arose among honorees, accentuating factors that act as catalysts for success, many of which trace back to their time at Miami. 

“One of the big trends I noticed is that people exist on the line between two fields,” Moore said. “They weren’t just involved with one thing, they had a couple 

Of this year’s 18 honorees, 12 had a study abroad experience, which was perhaps the most common success factor. Many who did not study abroad cite this as their greatest regret from their undergrad experience. 

Moore also noticed a trend of active pursuit and utilization of available resources.

“They didn’t wait for the perfect scenario or life opportunity, they did the best they could in their area, took advantage of or created an opportunity,” Moore said. 

Hayes’s professional career is no exception, although it had humble beginnings; Hayes stayed in Oxford after graduation, working for the university in the office of health education, playing in a band and delivering pizza. 

His first project as a documentarian was a biopic for Miami’s men’s glee club. His second year in Miami’s employ was spent traveling the world with the men, documenting their experiences. He credits this as the learning experience he needed to develop how to effectively engage people digitally. 

“The extra opportunities provided to me outside of the classroom — video production, particularly — really gave me tools I needed to experiment right out of college,” Hayes said. “The first step and the confidence to make the first film about glee club shaped me professionally and had a huge impact on my life.”  

He remembers, too, his first foray into digital rhetoric, which began in King Library’s SIM Lab when he was tasked with creating a recruitment video for
his fraternity.

“The simple process of putting pictures together to influence what people thought was how I learned the power of visuals and music in how an audience experiences something,” he said.

For Hayes and his fellow honorees, 18 Of 9 has been, and continues to be, an avenue back to their roots. 

“18 Of the Last 9 is super exciting because it’s a great way to engage younger alumni,” he said. “A lot of people either heard about or were nominated for the award and I definitely feel closer to Miami and reconnected. It’s been a great experience.” 

The full list of nominees and honorees can be found at miamialum.org/18of9. The Alumni Association encourages students to join the on-campus reception on Nov. 5, 6 and 7, for which the honorees will pair up with their student organizations and favorite professors. Students, too, will have the chance to network with the professionals of their desired fields. 

Hayes, too, knows the potential of this program, and sees 18 Of 9 as an important opportunity for students and alumni alike. 

“The biggest blessing for young people is to get out there and do it,” he said. “There are so many reasons to tell yourself not to do it, not the right story or time, but I would definitely counsel against telling yourself that.”


Comments