USC Dentistry launches new alumni association
Welcome to the Century Club Alumni Association, Ostrow’s new alumni support group, offering members exclusive lifelong benefits. To get in, all you need is a completed or in-process Ostrow degree.
BY JOHN HOBBS MA ’12 & YASMINE PEZESHKPOUR MCM ’16
You have put in the hard time studying and spending incredibly long hours on the clinic floor. You have proven your competencies, sat through marathon licensure examinations and proudly thrown your graduation cap into the air.
By all accounts, you are now a world-class dental professional ready to face the world. But what next? It’s a transition that is about to become a little easier for Ostrow graduates, thanks to the launch of the Century Club Alumni Association (CCAA), a new alumni group that aims to deliver lifelong support to Trojan dental family members around the world.
Built on a legacy
While the CCAA is new to Ostrow, the support group actually builds upon the legacy of two alumni support groups that preceded it — the Dental Alumni Association, founded in 1907, and the Century Club, established in 1955.
Both groups have been steadfast contributors to Ostrow throughout the years, providing much-needed funds for scholarships, construction projects and classroom enhancements.
In fact, the Century Club began as a brilliant plan to break down a large, seemingly unattainable fundraising goal — raising money to build a dental school on the University Park Campus — to a plan to encourage 100 people to donate $100 each. These donors became the Century Club.
The Dental Alumni Association has been just as generous, providing generation after generation scholarship support and enhancing classroom technology through the years.
Even with a long, rich history of giving back, both support groups began running into challenges in the past few decades.
In the early 2000s, the Dental Alumni Association was shuttered after losing its independent status and being brought under the dental school’s control. The Century Club remained largely unknown to younger alumni, making recruitment increasingly difficult. Many were also confused by the presence of two distinct support groups.
“The previous structure of the alumni support groups was not effective,” says Karen Liang DH ’02, DDS ’06, the CCAA’s inaugural president. “Our students and alumni longed for an active alumni group, and the school had multiple support groups with long histories, but they lacked a clear identity.”
Added CCAA board member Joan Beleno Sanchez DH ’11: “Both organizations were ineffective because no one was told what these organizations do. Personally, I knew I wanted to support the dental school but wasn’t aware there were organizations that would help me do that.”
Time for a change
Looking for a change, the Century Club executive board — comprised of Chris Acone DDS ’01, PERIO ’04; Scott Adishian ’75, DDS ’79, PROS ’82; Chethan Chetty DDS ’00; Liang; and Beleno Sanchez — and Ostrow’s Office of External Relations partnered with a marketing firm to help refocus the dental school’s alumni support efforts.
“Their charge was to consider an integration of the organizations to allow efficiency and avoid the confusion as to the differences between the two groups,” explains Adishian, former president of the Dental Alumni Association.
The marketing firm conducted peer reviews on other USC alumni support groups and held focus groups, collecting feedback from members of the Century Club, Dental Alumni Association and Friends of Dentistry as well as alumni, students and members of Ostrow’s administration.
Through its research, the firm found that indeed the support groups lacked awareness and that younger generations engaged with support groups differently than those who came before them, looking for opportunities to give back to the community as well as for benefits to help them in their careers.
“Today’s generations crave mentorship, volunteer and networking opportunities with various professionals,” Liang says. “They want support from their alumni group and to know that a door to the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry is always open for them, even after graduation.”
In late September, armed with the marketing firm’s findings, the board met to discuss and vote on some key elements of the roll-out.
First up — They wanted to unify the two groups in a way that would pay proper respect to the decades of support offered by the Century Club and the Dental Alumni Association.
“We really focused on honoring these two cornerstone organizations at USC dentistry,” said Calen Ouellette, executive director of external relations. “We are committed to paying tribute to the rich history of those before, but looking to the future needs of our graduates.”
“We are committed to paying tribute to the rich history of those before but looking forward to the future needs of our graduates.”
—Calen Ouellette, Executive Director of External Relations
The board voted on the name the Century Club Alumni Association — the moniker itself an homage to the marriage of the alumni support groups, with an emphasis on “Century Club” (note the organization’s logo, with its protective double shields representing two Cs) because of its instant brand recognition among Ostrow students.
“[Century Club] is the lecture hall where we were … every single day freshman and sophomore years,” said one student focus group member. “It’s a name we’re so familiar with.”
Next, the new alumni support group needed to define itself. What was its purpose? What were its values? What did it hope to accomplish?
The board members had their own ideas of what made a support group thrive.
“A healthy support group is one that should be relevant, have a strong member base, provide resources and networking opportunities and create a sense of camaraderie for its members,” Liang says.
“A healthy support group starts with a clear focus, goal and mission that is evaluated regularly because, as times change, so too do goals and purpose,” Chetty says.
After much discussion, the board came to a consensus on the following mission statement: The Century Club Alumni Association is home to all Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry students and graduates who share in our mission to support and promote the advancement of oral health education and outreach. We engage our members through a variety of programs including shadow and mentorship, career growth, social connections and community outreach locally, nationally and internationally. The CCAA is committed to sustaining the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry’s tradition of excellence and a dedication to service, lifelong and worldwide.
Setting levels and benefits
The board also voted to reduce the number of membership levels. In the past, there were seven member ship levels spread across two different groups. The marketing firm suggested paring that number down to three.
Each membership level will bring with it a set of benefits. Some examples of benefits include access to an online job board, discounts on continuing education courses and the ability to participate in mentoring programs. A proposed added benefit for the premium membership level: One hundred percent of your membership dues will support the work Ostrow’s Community Oral Health Programs do in the community.
“I am most excited about the mentoring program and shadow day,” Beleno Sanchez says, “because I feel like students are yearning for more experience outside of school.”
“I’m excited about the online CE opportunities,” Chetty adds, referring to services like Spear Online and Ignite DDS, which could offer CCAA members free and discounted classes in practice management, debt management and technology.
“When I was in school, we really didn’t learn about business,” Acone explains. “A lot of it, I had to learn through mentors who showed me the ropes.”
Acone says he looks forward to becoming a mentor to future generations as part of the mentorship program. “I would like for the CCAA to open up more opportunities so individuals can enjoy the field of dentistry more rather than just working to pay off loans.”
To increase awareness among students and alumni, the CCAA plans to launch a website by fall 2017 that will serve as a one-stop shop for Ostrow graduates to connect with each other and their school. The CCAA board will also enlist student representatives to become active in the support group early and spread the word among their dental school colleagues. Finally, it plans to use social media to better connect with existing alumni.
The newly formed alumni support group faces its biggest challenges in the coming months. Will students and alumni take advantage of the new support group’s many benefits, networking and professional development opportunities? Will they let the CCAA help make their transition from school to the working world a little easier?
The CCAA board doesn’t see why not.
“The CCAA is really special because it stands to be the one organization that can span your entire career to retired dental professional,” Chetty says. “The group can be that net that keeps us alumni not only together but working to build each other up, and that’s really exciting.”
Photo: Ryan Forbes
Click here to read the original feature in the Fall 2016 TroDent.