Joe McGrail ’13 had met lifelong friends at Oxford Brookes before he even started his studies here in 2012. His love of the University and Oxford inspired him to start an alumni chapter in his hometown of Boston, USA.
“I miss Brookes and Oxford every day,” grins Joe, “and I really wanted to connect with others who had that great experience. So that’s why I started up the alumni chapter in Boston.”
Having fun is the central aim of the chapter. With Joe working for one of the USA’s leading craft brewers, Boston Beer Company, he is perfectly placed to put on social events such as pizza and beer nights at the brewery.
Joe is keen to point out “that it’s not just some people getting together for a few pints”. He is serious about the chapter providing professional networking opportunities along with the fun. He has built a team, with set roles and responsibilities, to organise events and increase the membership.
Although he first set up the chapter two years ago, it is only in the last six months that it has really started to grow. Joe says support from the Oxford Brookes Alumni Team has been very helpful in getting things off the ground.
“By opening up a line of communication with the team at Brookes, I’ve had access to a lot of tools that I didn’t know existed. They have a wonderful toolkit for any chapter that’s trying to get off the ground.”
Joe was an exchange student from the University of Massachusetts Amherst – at Brookes for one year studying Hospitality, Business and Entrepreneurship. It was a connection with the School of Business’s Dr Gabor Lukacs that led to his most memorable alumni event so far.
“Two years ago Gabor brought one of his courses over to Boston and while they were here they welcomed alumni to the British Consulate General’s residence for a reception. It was a wonderful event and well attended.”
A rather less plush but just as well attended reception got Joe’s time at Brookes off to a flying start. “My great experience started prior to day one! There was a welcome reception for international students and I met people there who ended up becoming lifelong friends. It was great that the University put on this event for us all.”
Joe is glowing about the impact his time at Brookes had on him. “It was completely life-changing. I learned a tremendous amount about my subject areas but also so much about the world and myself. I was the only student from Massachusetts so I showed up on my own and built a whole network. That group of people has helped me professionally. Some of them even attended my wedding!”
Joe has fond memories of socialising in Oxford. Particularly chilling out at the Chequers to watch football over a pint – and getting to know the local sights and culture. His life is now a whole lot busier, with three young kids as well as his job as Manager of Employee Engagement in a company with 1,500 employees across the USA.
He intends to find time to come back and visit Oxford sooner rather than later. “I was so lucky to be at Brookes. I can’t wait to bring my family over and show them where I lived, and look round the campus to see what’s changed and what’s still there from my time.” We look forward to seeing you over here, Joe!