Photo Courtesy of Brian James Photo Studio

In this special reunion edition of Getting to Know You, Elizabeth "Zab" Wilson Dicoi ’00 shares her experiences as co-chair for the Class of 2000's 20th Reunion and offers insight into how the pivot to digital programming helped build a sense of community among her class. 

Why Yale?
Yale’s engineering program, extracurricular drama activities, and the residential college system drew me to Yale. The enthusiasm of the Yale students stood out among other schools, as well as the college pride shown by the striking number of people wearing Yale gear. It seemed like Yalies loved being Yalies. I still pinch myself that I became one, too.

What is your favorite place in New Haven, past or present?
Claire’s Corner Copia, a.k.a., home of Lithuanian coffee cake, remains my favorite city establishment.

What is your favorite spot on campus?
The Timothy Dwight College Gate at 345 Temple Street. My first Yalie memory began at this spot. Subsequent memories were made at least twice daily. At dawn, book bags flew onto our shoulders as we rushed off to class to learn from remarkable minds. At dusk, faces smiled in our direction as we beeped through the gate to get to dinner on time. Ordinary beeps and slams of that gate marked the beginning and end of extraordinary days.

What's your favorite pizza place in New Haven?
Pepe's, especially if coupled with dessert from nearby Libby’s Italian Pastry Shop!

What reunion did you celebrate most recently?
We celebrated the Yale College Class of 2000 20th Reunion last May. While we planned for an in-person event, in April we started planning the virtual event, which occurred May 23, 2020.

What was your role for the reunion?
I partnered with Alyssa Rapp DC ’00 to co-chair the 20th reunion. We connected with 0Y0 alums to showcase their talents, worked with residential college captains to reach out to classmates, and collaborated with the YAA every step of the way.

How did you pivot with planning when the pandemic hit?
Thankfully, powerhouse Alyssa Rapp had extensive experience hosting virtual meetings prior to the pandemic. During the virtual reunion, the multi-talented Irina Gavrilova ’17 functioned as our production manager as Alyssa and I emceed. We were able to make several sessions virtual that were originally scheduled to be in-person, offering engaging content from faculty and classmates alike. One example was the campus walking tour led by Shana Schneider ’00. A New Haven resident, Shana prerecorded video footage of campus and provided live voice-over during the reunion. Classmates were transfixed by the tour, nostalgic for our past haunts and struck by the enormity of the campus changes. 

Other programming examples included various musical performances, some of which were prerecorded while others were performed live. Finally, classmates reconnected in the residential college “break-out” sessions at the conclusion of the reunion. These simultaneous mini-reunions were hosted by 0Y0 members of each college via Zoom. In the end, it was the flexibility and enthusiasm of our classmates that made our virtual 20th reunion a success.

How did hosting a virtual reunion help build class community?
While a virtual reunion could not replace the experience of being on campus, we were fortunate to celebrate together. May 2020 was a heavy time for everyone amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. The virtual reunion allowed us to take a step back, reflect, learn, and appreciate this rich community we inherited in 2000. As a direct result of the reunion, I now communicate regularly with classmates I have not seen in 21 years. 

What was the best part of your virtual reunion experience?

Dozens and dozens of squares on Zoom filled with amazing Yalies from across the globe. What a sight! Each square shared a common experience 20 years ago, but strikingly uncommon experiences since.

What would you say to alumni who are unsure about attending reunions online this year?
Low risk, high return! I understand the hesitation to attend a reunion online, but never has reunion-going been so easy. Best of all, alums can reconnect with alums who would otherwise be unable to attend the reunion due to geographic limitations or other concerns that make travel to New Haven challenging.

What have you gained from your alumni engagement with Yale?
On a community level, I have been reminded that Yale is constantly evolving. As rich as our history may be, it is our ongoing progress that most embodies “Lux et Veritas.” Yale’s commitment to the 1stGenYale program exemplifies this evolution. On a personal level, new and renewed friendships are the best part of life as a Yale alumna. Ashé. Boola boola!

 


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