Volunteer Spotlight: Vanessa Shewmaker, Denver


Shewmaker 1Shewmaker, Steve Huls, Mark FoxQ: What is your favorite experience as an Alumni Association leader/volunteer?

A: It’s hard to pick just one, as there are a few annual events that really stand out and that I truly look forward to! We start off the year with a Winter Fun Day in January or February, which is always a great time! Fellow alum/group leader, Mark Fox, and I coordinate this event which includes ice skating—weather and ice conditions permitting—at Evergreen Lake, which is a beautiful mountain lake located about 35 minutes from Denver. After a couple hours of skating, we head up the road to Beau Jo’s, a Colorado favorite, and enjoy pizza and fellowship!

In the summer, we host a University of Minnesota Alumni Night at a Colorado Rockies baseball game. It's a fun event and has been very well-attended since it’s inception in 2017. Before the game, we meet at a brewery inside the ballpark and then head to our designated section to cheer on the home team!

Finally, I also enjoy the annual Day of Service which is held in the fall. It’s a wonderful opportunity to give back to the Denver community with other Gopher alums. This is an outstanding event and I make it a priority to try and attend each year.

Q: Why do you volunteer?

A: I really like organizing unique events to bring alumni together, and it’s been an honor and privilege to be part of such a great group of people! Also, I enjoy giving my time and energy to folks in need and I think it’s very important to do that. Since I LOVE volunteering AND I’m a proud University of Minnesota graduate, getting involved with the alumni group here in Denver is a perfect opportunity to do both!

In addition to being a group leader for the Alumni Association, I’ve served as a “Big Sister” in Big Brothers Big Sisters for many years and I volunteer with my church by serving dinner at The Crossing, which is a branch of the Denver Rescue Mission, as well as through other service projects.

Shewmaker 2Shewmaker (in blue), and other Gopher alumni at the 2018 Winter Fun Day

Q: Why would you encourage others to volunteer?

A: I feel it’s important to volunteer for personal growth, to meet new people and most importantly, to give time, resources and encouragement to those in need. It helps take the focus off ourselves and make a difference in the lives of others. Plus, it’s nice to stay connected to the university and give back in a very small way.

Shewmaker 3Shewmaker (front row, second from right) volunteering with other Gopher alumni

Q: Share some alumni words of wisdom. A: One of my favorite aspects of the University of Minnesota Denver Alumni Group is the diversity. We’ve had alums in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, and from all walks of life, in attendance at the aforementioned events, which has been very enjoyable! It’s neat to share stories and hear about others’ experiences on campus before AND after my time there.

I encourage all alumni to check out their local chapter and get involved! It’s really cool for us alums to keep the Gopher spirit going strong all over the country and beyond, and show off our Maroon and Gold pride! You’ll meet some wonderful people and make a difference in your community, which is awesome! I promise you won’t regret it! Ski-U-Mah!


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