The group of UB SOUL alumni come home to unite and give back
Durval Morgan’s friends call him “a visionary” because he has a drive to bring people together. Even her destination wedding in Cancun last year had more credits than some feature films.
So when Morgan started talking about a special comeback event at the University at Buffalo in 2019, people knew it was going to happen. And in the two years it’s been delayed by the pandemic, its vision has grown from a reunion of UB alumni of color to a four-day multicultural homecoming experience, to what becomes an official group. alumni as he prepares for his first event in Buffalo next weekend.
The effort, called UB SOUL, aims to form a network of Black UB alumni who are passionate about their alma mater and its diversity, community, cultural and leadership programs, and who want to come together as a force to mutually support future alumni and their school.
“I’ve taken it upon myself to increase engagement with our current alumni, especially young urbanites like us,” Morgan said.
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“A lot of times when we talk about networking, we rely on going to events and reaching out to people we don’t know, and we forget to tap into our own network,” he said. declared. “We know UB alumni who are executives, doctors, lawyers, IT people, but we don’t use that to our advantage. Perhaps the best resources are in the network you already have, the people who have attended your school.
UB SOUL stands for Shades Of Unity and Love, and its inaugural gathering marks UB Homecoming from Thursday, September 29 through Sunday, October 2, with a black culture theme designed to appeal to oldtimers like Morgan and his UB friends, who bonded over their first summer orientation to the Equal Opportunity Program in 2001 and have never lost touch.
In addition to offering the traditional homecoming dinners, dances and tailgating with an “urban” twist, UB SOUL Homecoming has its own hotel – the Hyatt Regency Buffalo – its own sponsors (M&T Bank, Bacardi and UB’s Office of Alumni Engagement), his own Facebook group with over 300 members and his own song, GoodYears by hip-hop artist and UB alum Omar Sampson (“OhMugz”), who wrote it for the occasion.
Morgan even designed a UB-spirited clothing line titled “Since 1846” (the year UB was founded) featuring T-shirts with stacked UB dorm names: Goodyear. Clement. Schoellkopf. McDonald’s. Prichard.
For Morgan, UB SOUL is a gift to UB and Buffalo that took years to make. A Brooklyn native who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise science at UB, Morgan is now in his 14th year as an athletic trainer and medical expander at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
He initially chose UB because it was the furthest public school from home, had Division I athletic programs and an equal opportunity program “that provided a great transition to college, free tutoring and other resources that leveled the playing field for people like me,” he said.
He fell in love with UB when he arrived. “It’s big, it’s diverse and it feels like home,” he said.
In 2015, a year after landing his current job, Morgan began organizing what he called “UB Brunch NYC” rallies to bring together alumni of color in Manhattan. The brunches have attracted up to 65 alumni from his demographic – he turns 40 next year – at the height of their careers and ready to serve as mentors and influencers.
During the 2019 brunch, the topic of back to basics and how it could be adapted to attract and unite black alumni was raised. Morgan said, “Let’s do it.”
It was supposed to happen in 2020, like her wedding, but both were postponed due to Covid. This gave Morgan more time to perfect it.
Its planning committee includes friends of Buffalo, Tricia Grannum, procurement specialist at M&T Bank, and Jamil Crews, digital communications manager for Say Yes Buffalo. They settled on the name UB SOUL in May, during the time of the hate crime that made bringing Shades Of Unity and Love to Buffalo even more important, Grannum said.
“Even for those who don’t live here, Buffalo is where we started to become the people we are,” said Grannum, a Rochester native who “returned” to Buffalo in 2016. “It’s back home, and the May 14 massacre hit us in a special way. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do.”
Grannum and Crews embrace Morgan’s goal of building an enduring network of black alumni from Buffalo’s largest and most diverse university. All three exude a deep love for their alma mater and his hometown.
In 2001, they were among dozens of freshmen who participated in UB’s Equal Opportunity Summer Program, which continues to bring underrepresented and historically disadvantaged students together for five weeks each summer to help them get used to the “rigors and demands of college life,” according to the program’s webpage.
The children have acclimated, okay. Their “EOP summers” have become legendary, spawning stories, nicknames and jokes they still tell 20 years later. That first summer, Morgan took on the nickname “Nelly” because his peers thought he looked like the famous rapper. To this day, no friend of UB calls him Durval.
“I had so much fun and got to have so many different experiences, from regular college life to traveling with the sports teams on the road,” Morgan said. “The education we have received has been such an amazing experience, if I can do my part to ensure that other students have a similar experience, I will.”
Crews, a “skinny little boy” from Buffalo in their UB photos, became the first in his family to go to college. He originally planned to spend a year at UB and then transfer to a historically black school out of state.
“But when I came here, I fell in love with the school,” he said. “I made a lot of friends and got really involved in student groups, so I decided to go out and see what was going on, and I was here for the duration.”
He is always there and always involved. Last May, he delivered the keynote address at UB’s ALANA (African, Latina, Asian, and Native American) celebration for the class of 2022.
“If it weren’t for the university, the faculty and staff, and the relationships that I was able to develop here, I wouldn’t have made it,” Crews said. “So I’m happy to help give people the opportunity to engage in alumni relationships at the university as a way to give back.”
Crews said UB SOUL planners were “intentional” about what their four-day gathering in Buffalo represents. It will include a visit to the memorial to the Buffalo 10, the victims shot May 14 by a white supremacist at Tops Market in the city’s predominantly black neighborhood. The crew office at Say Yes is opposite the store.
Their slate of events will also provide networking opportunities for recent graduates and even alumni who may not have graduated to connect with a group of leaders who can “rise as they go.” we’re climbing,” Crews said.
“We want everyone in our UB family to feel welcome,” Morgan said. “Even those who for some reason miss a few credits or couldn’t finish. We don’t want anyone to feel left out.”
UB SOUL planners want current and future alumni to join them as “ambassadors” for the university and its vital role in WNY.
“I’m not an alum who can throw $1 million at my school and say, ‘Name a building after me,'” Morgan said. “But it’s one way I can give back.”