Earlier this year, former chemistry major and current pizza truck owner Rob Zorch, ’07, invited alumni into his kitchen for a virtual pizza-making demonstration via Zoom. As the live feed streamed, he stretched dough, scooped sauce, and answered questions on everything from kneading techniques to topping preferences. Coming just weeks into the spring pandemic shutdowns, it felt, well, blissfully normal.

In mid-March, alumni relations began ramping up invitations to Spiders like Zorch to share their expertise, play virtual games, and connect around common interests as a way of simply being there for one another in the COVID-19 era. These virtual interactive sessions quickly developed into daily programming as alumni led and took part in yoga classes, young grad trivia nights, live music performances, and more. They became a mainstay over the summer.

“It’s alums helping alums,” said Laura Krajewski, ’99, alumni relations director. “Those are the strong bonds that are there to lean on when you are part of this community.”

The programming will continue this fall, and creative partnerships are opening new opportunities to serve and connect Spiders. Alumni relations has tapped into what are normally on-campus-only events, such as speaker series offered by Arts & Sciences, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, and others. Many of these events have become virtual this semester, opening up the option for wider participation. Alumni relations has added them to its fall events calendar and opened up registration to alumni.

Career services is also active in the events mix, expanding its popular lineup of networking nights, résumé workshops, interview prep sessions, and career expos.

The core of the programming will continue to revolve around alumni volunteering their time to help and support one another. There’s an old saying that tough times don’t transform us into something new so much as reveal who we already are. Throughout the pandemic, Zorch and other Spiders are offering daily proof of just how strong, resilient, and caring the Richmond network is.