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Friday, March 31, 2023

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Chiloh Baty Chiloh Baty

A Year of Challenges

Chiloh Baty (’08) made the best of a challenging year as SDSU Alumni Board of Advisors president.
By Tobin Vaughn

“I think it just reaffirmed that the San Diego State alumni community is really here for each other and for the greater San Diego community.”

It was never going to be easy. When Chiloh Baty (’08) took over as SDSU Alumni Board of Advisors president in July 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had already cleared the San Diego State University campus of most faculty, staff and students for the preceding four months.

Going in, she was prepared for her term as president to be different. “I would say I expected a challenge,” Baty said, “and it was a challenge.”

SDSU Alumni exists to connect former students to the university. Among its traditions are tailgate or pre-game parties and other large gatherings of alumni. But in a year when all all in-person events were shut down, it was not to be.

The organization’s signature biennial event originally set for 2020, the SDSU Alumni Awards of Distinction, was postponed (and more recently rescheduled for April 23, 2022). “Alumni events are very much community-based and out in the public, so not having those wasn’t great,” Baty said, “but I think we made the best of it.”

Virtual Engagement

Making the best of a challenging situation included virtual board meetings and online events that could include alumni anywhere in the world. Last November, a virtual War Memorial wreath-laying ceremony was staged for homecoming along with an online Home Away From Homecoming celebration.

The increasing comfort level with online platforms like Zoom among alumni proved to Baty and other board members the viability of such tools to increase engagement. “It gave us an opportunity to explore that more deeply and embrace that a little bit more than maybe we would have otherwise,” she said.

More alumni who live outside the San Diego area will be among the new group of Alumni Board members beginning terms in July. “We are very excited about that,” Baty said.

High Notes

Among the bright spots Baty cites during her term were opportunities to support both SDSU students and the San Diego community at large. Both were responses to the pandemic.

In September, the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center became a site for public COVID-19 testing by the County of San Diego. During its busiest days, more than 1,000 tests were performed.

“Using the alumni center to keep people safe when so many public spaces were left empty and unused has been a great way to give back to our community,” Baty said. “And not just the SDSU community, but the San Diego community as a whole, which is something our university and our alumni are committed to.”

Boosting student morale during the pandemic was another focus of the board resulting in a successful note card project. Late in the fall semester and over the winter break, two dozen alumni board members and members of The Campanile Foundation Board of Directors, along with some SDSU Alumni staff, composed hand-written individual messages of encouragement to every student living in campus residence halls.

More than 2,100 personal notes were written on SDSU Alumni cards with Aztec Proud stickers tucked inside. They were delivered to residence hall mailboxes after students returned for the spring semester.

“We wanted to find a way to make a connection with the students who were having an even harder time than we were having,” said Baty. “As a board, we couldn’t meet in person and that was sad, but the students were dealing with so much more on campus and off campus than we could even wrap our heads around.”

Staying Connected

This month Baty presides over her final meeting when the SDSU Alumni Board of Advisors gathers in person for the first time in more than a year. “I’m just excited to see people in person again,” she said. Despite all the challenges posed by the pandemic, Baty’s takeaway from her year as president is entirely positive.

“I think it just reaffirmed that the San Diego State alumni community is really here for each other and for the greater San Diego community. Everybody really stepped up to do the best they possibly could do in this year.”

After passing along her gavel, Baty will serve an eighth consecutive year with SDSU Alumni as immediate past president. “They’re never getting rid of me,” she joked. “I don’t plan on going anywhere.”