The following article originally appeared in the fall 2016 W&M Alumni Magazine. - Ed.
If Olympia Ochoco Trumbower ’08 isn’t too busy to keep in touch, what excuse do the rest of us have?
In her role at the global communications and engagement team for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Trumbower spends each day in a balancing act.
“I essentially take really messy problems in areas where we’ve never done something before, and I help our leadership navigate through a process of getting work done,” she says. “I help people reach consensus.”
Consensus is easier when you already have something amazing in common. As a class ambassador for the Class of 2008, Trumbower is trying to bring people together in a different way — in support of William & Mary.
Class ambassadors are volunteers for the university who reach out to 10 classmates to talk with them about the life of William & Mary, university-wide goals and the importance of giving back. It’s a program with tremendous flexibility: Each ambassador reaches out on their own schedule and in their own ways. Staff liaisons work one-on-one with each volunteer to guide them through the process and answer any questions.
“For me, I had an incredible undergraduate experience and I joined a bunch of different organizations,” she says. “I met my future husband at William & Mary and he was on the basketball team, so we have a bunch of athlete friends too. In terms of my class ambassador network, I wanted to spread a far-reaching net.”
With her husband, former Tribe basketball player Adam Trumbower ’07, Olympia Trumbower moved from Williamsburg to New York and then to Seattle, where her work with the Gates Foundation takes her all over the world, tackling difficult global development projects in highly vulnerable regions.
The Class Ambassador program asks volunteers to reach out to 10 alumni; she says (humbly) that her count happens to inch closer to 20. Each volunteer contacts these classmates for outreach throughout major dates on the university calendar: big reunions, Giving Tuesday, One Tribe One Day, and the end of the calendar and fiscal year. Each date has significance as the university marches toward its For the Bold goals, but class ambassadors do a lot more than ask for support.
“It gives me a way to have continual touch points with friends,” she says. “I’m not always the best at catching up with folks, though I love to send short emails. This is a way to trigger a longer, more meaningful conversation — that’s how I think of it.”
Trumbower, who also serves on the Annual Giving Board of Directors, makes it a point to keep up with what’s happening on campus — she’s planning to catch up with a fellow alumnus and update him on the recent, dramatic renovations to Tyler Hall. He recently had a baby girl, and she looks forward to reminiscing about their sophomore year studying abroad in Spain.
For class ambassadors less inclined toward phone calls, Trumbower makes extensive use of social media as well.
“To be a successful class ambassador, you understand what’s the right way to reach your audience and communicate with whoever you need to connect with,” she says. Trumbower uses Facebook, Instagram and other services to reach people when phone calls seem impractical.
Even in Seattle, Trumbower knows the power of the global Tribe family.
“When Adam and I moved here at the end of 2011, we only knew a combined three other William & Mary people who lived in the Seattle area,” she says. “For us, they’re also people we consider great friends — we really wanted to maintain that relationship.” Over time, she adds, nearly a dozen more friends have relocated to the Pacific Northwest, adding even more green and gold to the Evergreen State. But as someone who “loves making new friends,” Olympia Trumbower isn’t content to stop there.
“[Seattle chapter president] Lee Waldrep ’06 told me once that there are over 1,000 alumni in our local chapter,” she says. “For me, personally, I’d love to find out who more of those people are.”