CU grad takes job in alumni office to connect with a variety of people
by Alyssa Helm
Set on overseas ministry as she headed into college, God vastly changed her plans by the time she graduated. Karissah Holmes came to Cornerstone University with the intention of pursuing missionary work in Africa.
But a short-term missions trip to Rwanda between her sophomore and junior years in college changed her ambitions.
“It was a defining moment when I was a college student,” Holmes said. “This trip confirmed for me that at that time I wasn’t ready to do overseas ministry.”
She said they went 13 years after the Rwandan genocide and were able to meet several people whose parents were killed or affected by the tragedy.
Their love for the Lord was breathtaking, she said. They were able to tour a genocide museum and see firsthand what the Rwandans went through.
She said it was eye-opening to see what they went through and their personal stories versus what people read or watch in a movie.
After that trip, she changed her major from missions to business. She decided on an international business minor so she could learn more about different cultures around the world.
She felt this major would help her in her goal to establish a non-profit ministry for children and battered women. Maybe someday she will make it overseas, but she is waiting on God.
She did her internships at two non-profit organizations. One was in Illinois, where she worked at Global Business Assist as an organizational intern. She said they were a microfinance company that gave out small loans to people who need assistance to establish individual wealth.
“Global Business Assist taught people to rely on themselves and I enjoyed having practical means to share the gospel with them,” Holmes said.
She also worked with The Common.org as a communications and marketing intern.
When she graduated from CU in 2009, Holmes was looking for a position that would allow her to connect with a variety of groups of people.
“My husband, who also works at CU, was looking online at the jobs they were offering and saw [the assistant to alumni relations] position open,” she said. “I applied instantly.”
She said she loved her time at CU as a student and thought this job would be a great way to help fellow alumni stay connected with the university.
She said when students graduate, they are still a vital part of the community at CU. She helps organize communication to alumni, including the alumni journal, e-newsletter and website.
Holmes helps plan events to bring alumni on campus, like some of the Winter Homecoming events and the alumni chapel and luncheons that are happening this semester.
“I love interacting with the older alumni who have different memories from CU,” she said. “And I love being able to make a new connection with someone and change their mind about what alumni relations is all about.”
When alumni didn’t have the greatest experience at CU, it is sometimes a challenge to change their mind about what the university stands for and what CU is about.
“There are many positive changes going on here, with bringing in Joe Stowell and expanding the campus. Our environment has changed,” Holmes said.
She encourages current students to enjoy their time in college and make the most of it. She said to take advantage of the opportunities to do something outside people’s comfort zone.
Connecting with the Grand Rapids community is important too, she said.
“College is a unique time of your life that you’re able to be immersed in such a culture and community that loves the Lord,” Holmes said. “And you’ll always be welcome back!”