What’s your “Starbucks” name?

Recently, I have become a fan of the podcast The Mash-Up Americans  and on their podcast they ask the question “What’s your Starbucks name?” After hearing the story behind, American comedian, Hasan Minhaj’s Starbucks’ name, “Sean”, I wanted to process what it could mean when college students and alumni from an ethnic background give your institution a “Starbucks” name. starbucks-name-cup

I work in alumni relations with students and alumni who identify and create experience through their ethnic identity. Throughout my career I have experienced my share of introducing myself to students from all over the world and when it comes time for me to learn their names, some will say “Just call me……”, now in the beginning I would accept whatever the American name was, but I found that this accommodation was for me, the American who typically has trouble pronouncing names from a different country. This is where the introduction of “What’s your Starbucks name” begins and as an alumni relations professional this should send a red flag. I believe this should send a red flag, because off rip I am developing a relationship that is not honoring one of the core elements that is important in everyone’s culture….their name.


Now I understand people can be called whatever they want, but when the name I am being given is a Starbucks name out of making it easier for me this is where I see the problem. I believe that it is the responsibility of any educational advancement professional to step out of their comfort zone and do what it takes to learn and pronounce correctly an individual’s name. I believe that honoring a person’s name is the first step in truly engaging your alumni. Here are a couple of  thoughts about being a receiver of a Starbucks name:


  • The Starbucks name you learn is not the official student record name that gets imported into your alumni database. Only knowing and recognizing the Starbucks name makes it difficult to pick out and cultivate the name of a student/alumni you actually have a relationship with. The lack of knowledge of the legal name can impact the prospect and cultivation experience of your alumni and friends.


  • Surface connections, have you ever experienced a person who you thought was your friend or that you at least had more than an acquaintance relationship and they sent you a card with your name spelled wrong, or they had to pronounce your name and botched it all the way up? It can make a person question the depth of the relationship you have.  Imagine asking an alumnus to serve on your board or a donor to financially support a project and you can’t even get their name right.


Check out this funny sketch, “Substitute Teacher, by Key & Peele that shows the mispronunciation of a person’s name through a different lens. Click Here


If your institution, alumni association or foundation is wanting to diversify your boards and donor pool start with the name. Here are five tips to help your organizations honor your students, alumni and donor’s names:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for the appropriate pronunciation of their name, even if it takes multiple attempts. It seems like after the second time of “tell me again how to say your name” the awkwardness sets in and you say oh okay, got it…when you know you really don’t. It’s uncomfortable for both parties, so press your way through and do what you need to learn the name appropriately. That may mean spelling it out phonetically or even asking if you can record them saying their name, so you can listen to it over and over again. It’s better to learn to pronounce their name correctly, then saying it fast or saying it quietly.


  1. Take a class or download a video/audio to help you with pronunciations. I know at my institution we have a Confucius Institute and they offer Chinese speaking courses and it can help you practice pronouncing sounds that may be unique for you.


  1. Make sure your information cards or sign in sheets or whatever format you collect data ask for both the individual’s legal name and their preferred name and make sure it gets entered into the overall alumni database.


  1. Always verbally give your student, alumni and/or donor the opportunity to correct you if you say their name or spell their name incorrectly. Some people will not correct you if you say their name wrong because they are so use to it, or they don’t want to embarrass you.  Providing an open opportunity for someone to correct you about their name can truly send a message that you are genuinely trying to learn their name and that can really contribute to a developing relationship.


  1. Remember, remember, remember this is one I struggle with the most. If you don’t practice it, you will lose it, so create some type of system that will help you remember how to pronounce a person’s name.


Settling for a “Starbucks” name should not be acceptable for your organization, especially if you are earnestly trying to be more inclusive.

Banning Greek Organizations…What’s the fundraising plan?

Pennsylvania State University, Louisiana State University, Florida State University and unfortunately many more have experienced horrific deaths and misconduct of members of the Greek life communities. With the heightened publicity of tragic deaths and misconducts on college campuses, administrators have moved to suspend Greek life activities on certain campuses, legally distance themselves from organizations and question the need for Greek life organizations entirely. Although the reports of the recent deaths and misconduct have focused on white fraternity organizations, Black Greek-Lettered Organizations (BLGOs) are impacted by the events.

Eta Gamma Fortitude

In the spirit of the past and upcoming National Panhellenic Council (NPHC) members founder’s day celebrations, where all nine were founded on college campuses. I will share some of my thoughts for institutions of higher education, alumni associations and foundations about the importance of having a plan when it comes to the future of fundraising and the urgency of intentionality with the BGLOs.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.         December 4, 1906             Cornell University

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.        January 15, 1908              Howard University

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.           January 5, 1911               Indiana University

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.              November 17, 1911         Howard University

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.          January 13, 1913               Howard University

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.             January 9, 1914                 Howard University

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.                     January 16, 1920              Howard University

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.         November 12, 1922          Butler University

Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.              September 19, 1963          Morgan State University

Future of Fundraising

Cultivating Alumni

As college graduates become more diverse, the cultivation of alumni who have strong affinity with their BGLO will continue to grow in importance. Having a comprehensive understanding of the experiences, relationships, and causes that are important can guide alumni associations and foundations on ways forward. The history and goals of BGLOs have a running theme of education and giving back. This community approach can assist colleges and universities, but only if the institutions are intentional about cultivating and connecting with BGLOs and their members.

Eta Gamma 1


Here are three ways to start building intentionality with your Black Greek-Lettered Organizations on your campus:

Be knowledgeable

1.     Do you have any BGLOs on your campus? If so, which ones?

2.     How long have each of your BGLOs provided service on your campus?

3.     Who are the charter members of each BGLO and is that distinguished status documented on their alumni profile?

Build Relationships

1.     Does your institution know the focus(es) of each BGLO’s national and regional initiatives?

2.     Does your institution document membership of BGLOs on the alumni/donor database and know how many members overall became members through the chapters who are affiliated with your institution?

3.     Do your alumni relations or the development staff attend or participate in any activities that are organized by BGLOs?

Pay Attention

1.     Are any of your student leaders, advisory board, or board of directors, members of a BGLO? (Don’t assume if they are not Black they are not a part of these organizations)

2.     If your campus ever experienced any unrest or protest for equity, civil rights, or advocacy for communities of color do you know if any BGLO’s and/or their members were actively engaged?

3.     Is your alumni relations or development staff aware of the leaders who serve in an executive capacity of a national BGLO and what institution(s) they have graduated from?


The banning of student Greek life organizations on college campuses is real and BGLOs are being impacted. As we reflect and celebrate the various founder’s days, I say to institutions of higher education, alumni associations and foundations, that you need to make concerted efforts to connect and build relationships with your BGLOs and your alumni. As the trend to create distance between student Greek organizations and universities continue, you must think of how this distancing can impact your future philanthropy and fundraising strategies. You have to remember that these community focused organizations are rooted in education and giving back. Understand that a world without collegiate Black Greek-Lettered Organizations have a greater impact than your institution may even know. It was  young college student founders who created and developed on a college campus and made a lifetime commitment to changing the world.


The journey back to the United States….Thursday two times 

Today was our final day in South Korea, it has truly been a blast and the alumni and faculty I had a chance to interact with were fantastic. I have learned so much about the culture and have gained a better perspective about how to engage our future and current alumni who are from South Korea. 

Before our flight we had one more meeting with a retired faculty member from Yongei University, who Carol and Junehee knew. It was a pleasure to meet her and learn about her career and what she is doing in retirement.

* South Korean fact

When a person turns 65 years old they must retire. Also in Korea you turn a year older on the first day of the new year, not the day your were born.

We dined at a Chinese restaurant that was in the Seoul train station. I have never been to a train station that had multiple restaurants, coffee shops and a mall. The food was once again delicious 

Green tea

This chicken was so on point…..

But watch out for these peppers…Ked and I both accidentally ate these and boy were we on fire. Never again!

Crab hot and sour soup

Beef and vegetables….more vegetables than beef

Sweet and sour prawns! Oh so good

Chinese Bun

Juicy Lychee for dessert

The time has come to head back to the United States. We had a blast but we are ready to get back home. We look forward to coming back to South Korea.

So our flight from Seoul was Thursday, June 22nd at 5:30pm and we arrived in Dallas on Thursday, June 22nd at 4:30pm. We had a 4 hour layover and it was not bad, because we could chill in the Admiral lounge, which is a whole new level for waiting for your flight.

We also had the chance to meet up with one of Kedric’s high school friends who lives in Dallas.

We finally made it back to Manhattan safely. I have swollen feet and a slight back ache, but we are blessed to be at home and in our own bed. What an experience we had.

I hope you enjoyed this blog series about my first trip to South Korea.

Until next time

Farewell Busan

Today was our final day in Busan and it was filled with more sightseeing, catching up with alumni, cultural history and of course food.

This tour focused on the west side of Busan which was where the local folk lived. As I traveled through Busan I was wondering where the everyday people lived and worked. The hotel we stayed at was more of a touristy area .

What I observed on this tour was the hills…..San Francisco ain’t got nothing on these hills.

Also no space is wasted, every nook, cranny, and alley is filled with a home, restaurant, mom and pop store, coffee shop or fruit stand. Being from the United States I can see why people see it as a place with a lot of open space. What a luxury.

While on the tour we experienced more beautiful views.

After the tour we ventured off on our own!

We ended up back at the mall and we saw kimchee refrigerators (I want one)

We were told that just about every household has  a kimchee refrigerator. Families will get together before the winter and make kimchee that can last them all winter.

I didn’t talk much about the driving here, but it is crazy….not as bad as Costa Rica. Here this taxi stops in the middle of traffic to pick this woman up. She had luggage to put in the trunk….smh

Ked and I learned that sidewalks are not ment just for pedestrians walking….its for driving and parking as well.

We took the city bus…..traffic was crazy

Here’s what a school bus looks like

We had a chance to experience the  world famous chagalchi fish market.

I felt like we were on the Travel Channel as we walked down the various alleys looking at the fresh seafood. 

We stopped in a small restaurant along the way and had some fried fish.

After we experienced the fish market, the night market was happening so we walked around and soaked in our last night in Busan.

Another observation Ked and I made was the love for miniature dogs that people in Busan had. We never saw a big dog….like never!

Now back to the hotel to pack and get ready for our train ride back to Seoul. Busan it has been a blast.

Until next time

Moving octopus and the best cheese tart ever

As many may know I can be an adventurous eater! I give thanks to my mother who started my siblings and I on diverse foods at a very early age. Instead of just lunchables, cookies and chips she had us also trying dried shrimp, toasted seaweed, raw sushi and so much more. That early exposure has created a palate that allows me to travel the world and have an open mind to try cultural foods. 

I truly believe that being open to cultural styles of food are an important piece to building relationships. I hear many business people talk about closing deals over dinner. I have even participated in those career development sessions on how to have dinner with your boss. Yet, I have never seen how to eat cultural foods you’re not use to foods events. As an individual you are on your lonesome to experience your relationship with cultural foods.

Living in Manhattan, Kansas I don’t have many opportunities to explore so I make sure to sharpen my skills when I travel.

Here are some of the foods we at today:

We stopped by  A local market and picked up a ginseng drink.

We ventured to Gwangalli Beach to go to Millak-dong Hoe street which is where approximately 300 restaurants serve hoe (raw fish).

We selected some fresh seafood and took it up stairs to one of the restaurants to prep it. What a sea to table experience.

Trying to sit in the traditional dining setting, Ked and I had a food adventure.

But first shoes 😂😂😂

Ked in these too small shoes

We tried the famous Korean San-nakji,  a hoe dish (raw fish dish) of octopus that still is moving after it is cut up.

Ked trying San-nakji

It was very chewy…..like really really chewy and it didn’t taste like anything but the sauce you put it in.

We had some other fish that I don’t know what to call them but here is what we bought and here is what it looked like after it was prepared.

Our next food adventure were these freakin delicious cheese tarts that are all the rage. I heard on the weekend the line is wrapped around the corner  and people can only get one box per person at a time. All I can say is, YES,  it’s the best cheese tart ever! It’s like a mini cheesecake with a cookie like crust. Dangerous for the wasteline…..but who cares…2 boxes please!

Tonight we tried Soju, a South Korean liquor made from rice…….stroooooonggggg and will put you straight on your bum.

We capped off our foodie tour with another trip to Sulbing and tried another one of their desserts. This was not as good as the first but still yummy.

Tomorrow is our last full day and evening before we head back to the states.  We will go on a tour of Busan and experience more of the culture.

Until next time

Guinness world’s largest department store and a seaside alumni extravaganza

It’s after midnight in Busan and we are just getting in from a great gathering with some K-State alumni. 

Today was another day of exploring Busan. We kicked it off with another early morning walk, this time to Dongbaekseom Island which is not too far from our hotel. This area was bustling with early morning risers doing their daily workouts and stretches while overlooking the sea. What a way to start your day.

After enjoying another God created day we enjoyed a buffet breakfast that had tons of food like bugiogi, a variety of kimchi, dumplings, rice porridge, fruit and an assortment of breads.

During the day we took the subway and ventured off to the Guinness World’s Record for the largest department store and I cannot even describe how massive this place was. All I can say is I had to take a nap when we got back. 

The main event for today was the alumni event. On the beach one of our alumni reserved a spot for us to gather at a place called Sam Ryan’s which is an American sports bar. At first when I learned about this place I chuckled because here I am going all the way to South Korea and we will end up at an American sports bar.

This was a great location and such a great vibe for K-staters to come together .  It was wonderful because alumni from different colleges, and class years were able to talk about there time at K-State. At this event I was able to engage in some great conversations and learn more about how to continue to provide engagement opportunities for our alumni….plus I think I will have a few visitors when some of them come back to the states to visit.

I am so thankful to have these experiences and connections and I look forward to more opportunities. 

Until next time

A morning on the beach and a day with Yebin Yoon

Today we woke up at 5:30am wide awake and ready to explore what Busan had to offer. With our hotel literally on the beach we took a stroll and observed the morning activity on Haeundae beach.

While enjoying the peacefulness of the early morning we were approached by some men, who I thought wanted Ked or I to take a picture of them,  but instead they wanted to take a picture with us! Lol

During this trip we have definitely experienced a lot of stares, secret photos being taken of us and a store clerk who flat out asked if we were famous 🙂 Ked and I have learned that this is a part of the travel and to join in on the fun and pose as if we are famous.

The water is a tad bit cool

After 10 tries Ked finally got a good shot

A rare photo pose of Ked….plus he got his feet out

After our cardio stroll on the beach we were hungry and looked for a traditional spot to eat. We rolled up on a little restaurant that was filled with older Korean people enjoying their morning meal and fellowship.

For breakfast we ordered the spicy octopus and beef hot pot and boy was it delicious and filling.

For the remaining of our day our friend and K-State alum, Yebin Yoon, scooped us up and showed us a few spots in Busan.

We went to a super posh coffee shop called Cafe Yoon! This coffee shop had amazing views of the sea. There were a lot of people enjoying the views and coffee. Lots of people took pictures including us.

While enjoying the company and food the three of us talked about Korean culture and observations we made and how Yebin’s life is going  after her time at K-State.

This banana pudding was super legit.

The next spot Yebin took us to was the 1376 built Haedong Yonggungsa temple. As the late afternoon set in and the day began to cool off it was the perfect time visit this temple.

When we headed out we bought this yummy sweet bread that had nuts in it and was pressed down flat on a griddle.

To end our day we took another walk on Haeundae beach and enjoyed dinner at this fusion spot on

which is a famous street for fusion and creative restaurants.

Tomorrow is our Busan event and I am looking forward to connecting with more K-State alumni.

Until next time