Driven to Serve
By Eric Michael, ’96
Staying connected to your alma mater can be difficult from more than 1,300 miles away. In Miami, busy corporate executive Julie Stroh was searching for a way to sustain her bond with the place where she experienced “cultural enlightenment” — the University of Michigan. Volunteering with the U of M Club of Miami-Fort Lauderdale “seemed like a great way to fulfill a drive and desire and do something for an institution that had really helped me so much,” she says. But Stroh had no idea that her initiation into the world of alumni relations would lead to a radical shift in her career trajectory — and a new level of professional fulfillment.
“I was really transformed because of my experience with service and philanthropy. It totally changed my life,” she says. “It’s why I left the for-profit world and moved into higher education.”
After that transition, Stroh became a leader in alumni, community and government outreach positions at the University of Miami, where she earned her graduate degree in liberal studies, and Ball State University in Indiana, before joining the UCF Foundation in September.
“Serving and being engaged and involved at UCF will give you access to things in your life that will make you a more successful person, but the real return on your investment will be the impact you’ll make — the lives that will be changed because of generosity.”
“I’m a latecomer to higher education advancement but have been fortunate because of the great synergies between my entrepreneurial corporate background, my passion for education and my personal drive for service,” says Stroh. “I don’t function well as a person unless I feel that I’m giving back as a significant part of my life.”
It’s the combination of service and philanthropy that Stroh sees as the key to success for alumni who truly want to maximize the benefits of their association.
“We have the opportunity and the ability to provide our alumni with connections to resources on campus, to career services and to fellow Knights in a new city or in your current community — meaningful connections,” she says. “Serving and being engaged and involved at UCF will give you access to things in your life that will make you a more successful person, but the real return on your investment will be the impact you’ll make — the lives that will be changed because of generosity.”
It’s a result that Stroh believes in because she has experienced it firsthand. “I think if someone were to ask me what I am most proud of in my professional life, I’d say it was the opportunity to serve and give back to my institution.”