A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Meet the Alumni Association President

By Corey Jenkins Schaut, MPA '07 on September 15, 2014


Chris Preston, BS Management ’96, the Mason Alumni Association president as of July 1, is a busy guy. He is the senior vice president for strategic and regional management with the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, a position he began in fall 2013. The Mason Spirit caught up with him by phone during his commute from Philadelphia to Fairfax, where he shares a home with his wife and young son. He took a few minutes to chat about why he loves Mason and his hopes for our alumni community.

How did you choose Mason?

Chris Preston

Chris Preston

Growing up in Roanoke, I was fascinated by kids my age who had grown up in Northern Virginia. Honestly, I thought they were more culturally adept than I was. So when I got accepted at Mason, it immediately went to my top five. Then, when I had the opportunity to become a Mason Scholar, it was a no brainer. It was a great up-and-coming university, and I had a full academic scholarship. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.

Following up on that, what does Mason mean to you?

It means everything. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Mason. So my service back to the university is something that comes naturally.

You mentioned being a Mason Scholar (now known as a University Scholar). What advice do you give to people who are in that program now?

Take advantage of the program and the other students you will meet. Your fellow students will help you raise the bar for yourself while at the same time serving as a network and a sounding board. I am still great friends with several of the people I was in the program with to this day, and at the same time, I still use those guys to motivate me.

What’s your favorite Mason memory?

There was the Final Four, which was so surreal, but beyond that, there was the opening of the Johnson Center, which took place my senior year. There was just so much excitement, knowing that as I left the campus there were so many great things to come for the university.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

I started as a treasurer for the Black Alumni Chapter in the early 2000s. At the same time, I was involved in a lot of Mason-centric social networking events with friends. I was asked to serve as an at-large director on the association board starting in 2005. From that point on, I just got more and more involved.

As you move into the role of president, do you have specific goals for your term?

We want to see more active participation from our more than 155,000 alumni. We plan to do this by building on the strategic plan created during Rodney Turner’s presidency. We have set four strategic goals: to elevate the pride in and reputation of our alma mater to build loyalty, to motivate alumni to be engaged and affiliated with Mason, to assist in developing a culture of alumni philanthropy and service, and to provide quality leadership in the Alumni Association in order to be an effective voice for our alumni.

How do you encourage alumni to get involved?

It depends. If  it’s someone who has just lost contact with the university, it could be as simple as taking a tour of the campus . . . . It’s so much different, especially since my time in the early to mid 90s.

For others, from a return on investment perspective, take a look at the value of your degree. Part of the value of your degree is based on rankings, and one of the areas where we don’t do so well is alumni donor participation. That’s not how much people give, but if people give at all. With our participation rates now, we have a good opportunity to increase those to help improve our rankings. From a prestige standpoint, making a gift adds value to our diplomas.

Last question—tell us something people might not know about you.

When I was in fifth grade, I got punished for a month for tearing a hole in my sweatsuit while I was break dancing. My punishment was actually shortened to two weeks because I made the honor roll—I got all A’s. My good grades helped me get out of a pretty bad situation.

That was prophetic, right? Those good grades carried you through all the way to Mason.

Absolutely. Good grades set the tone for my life.

 


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