On March 16, 2016, the 1st female president of the male-dominated Ateneo Alumni Association (AAA) was sworn into office by University President Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ.
When asked, Melissa “Miel” Reyes (AB Social Sciences 1985) said she had mixed feelings about her election as President. Surprisingly, some of the older (male) alumni she consulted with said that it was “about time.”
“Even some past presidents said it was about time,” Reyes confided, adding that it might provide impetus for an expansion of the traditionally “male” alumni agenda of sports and homecoming.
A woman of strong record
Miel was a member of the Tanghalang Ateneo, the Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League (ACIL) and the Ateneo Student Council or Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng Paaralang Ateneo de Manila during college. She was even elected twice as year representative.
The feisty lady was a member of the Sanggunian in the years after the assassination of former Sen. Benigno Aquino and led the protest movement in Ateneo’s Loyola Heights campus.
After finishing her AB degree in 1985, Miel went to New South Wales, Australia for post-graduate studies where she earned her Master of Commerce Major in Organization & Management Studies in 2001.
Since then, Miel logged over 20 years of work experience in the field of Human Resources, primarily as Programs Officer of Ateneo de Manila University’s Human Resource Center. She also became the Organization Development Officer at the International Exchange Bank and the HR Solutions Manager at Smart Communications.
Miel now works as a freelance Training Facilitator, Organization Development Consultant and as an Executive Coach. She is also a part-time Lecturer at the Ateneo Department of Psychology
Miel said she was not really sold on the idea of becoming president of the Alumni Association, so she went on a retreat and got a “calling” to serve. 10 days after her retreat, she was elected AAA president.
“It felt uncomfortable and I had mixed feelings at the beginning,” she said. She added that after asking the alumni, she found out that they were happy to finally have a woman at the helm of the association—a historic first.
Miel’s term officially starts April 1 but she is already making rounds and talking to key stakeholders and office heads.
“I’m consulting them, listening to their needs, brainstorming on possible areas of collaboration in order to make the AAA more relevant and involved in the life of the school,” she said.
Plans for the Ateneo Alumni Association
For the next few years, she said she would like to:
· First, boost internal engagement with the university,
· Second, animate the various sectors of the alumni, specifically the young alumni and women, through programs that are relevant and engaging
· Third, strengthen the formative and social development thrust of the AAA.
· Fourth, capacitate the AAA office so that it can support the programs and be sustainable.
She even plans to hold networking nights for the younger alumni (0-10 years out of college) who, in the past, were hardly ever involved in the AAA activities. This would involve older alumni mentoring the younger ones.
According to Miel, she sees an exciting year for the AAA, filled with opportunities to grow and develop and make the association stronger and more aligned to its vision and mission.
With God’s help
Through all this, Miel does not forget the Lord. “To this endeavor, I pledge to do my best, be available and to give my all. I am deeply honored and humbled to serve you, the alumni community. I know that I will only be able to do this job by God’s grace and with your prayers and support.”