How do you engage an alumni community a decade or more removed from their college experience, and how do you do it amid a pandemic that calls for social distancing? That question has been top of mind for Paula Mahayosnand, MC ’93, the new president of the Marymount College Alumnae Association Board.

In September, Mahayosnand and the other new board leaders held a virtual town hall to introduce themselves to the Marymount community, share information on how to get involved, and get a better sense of what members want—from the board and each other.

“What we’re hearing is they really want more engagement,” she said, “through more alumni events,” particularly ones with an emphasis on diversity and social justice.

The Enduring Spirit of Community

That desire for engagement and connection—that strong sense of community—is familiar to Mahayosnand: It’s what drew her to Marymount as a prospective student, she said, recalling her first visit to the Tarrytown campus. “I just felt comfortable … at home. I remember attending the orientation for students, and … we had Mass in the chapel, and I just really felt like this was a place where I want to be.”

Once enrolled, Mahayosnand pursued a double major in journalism and English literature. She praised the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary at Marymount for gently helping her find her way, asking her tough, challenging questions that forced her to think critically about her choices but never telling her “no.”

She said that kind of support has allowed her to step outside the box of her double major and into a career across multiple industries—from publishing to finance to IT—and her current position as vice president of business application at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation.  “I think the relationship with Marymount was … always finding that opportunity, looking for that mentor. Find someone that you can connect with and see what they’re doing well.”

Putting Life Lessons to Work

Councilman at Large Rolando Lavarro and Paula Mahayosnand
In early November, Paula Mahayosnand, MC ’93, was honored by Jersey City as a Woman of Action 2020 for her nonprofit work in the community. She was nominated by Councilman at Large Rolando Lavarro (left). A virtual ceremony is scheduled for Nov 19.

Mahayosnand is committed to serving as a mentor. She’s a member of the Women’s Inclusion Network and the Financial Women’s Association—all because of the Marymount sisters’ lasting impact on her. “Being mentored by the sisters, understanding sisterhood and empowering young women to do their best, to guide them … I continue to do that here in my professional and personal life,” she said.

She also serves as a eucharist minister and a Sunday school teacher for second graders, preparing them for their sacraments of reconciliation and first communion at St. Aloysius Parish in Jersey City.

In addition to mentorship, other values instilled in her at Marymount—social justice, environmental sustainability, community—have stuck with Mahayosnand. In New Jersey, where she lives, Mahayosnand is president of the Jersey City Parks Coalition, which recently held one of its largest art exhibits, with more than 300 submissions across 10 parks. She’s dedicated to preserving green space in cities, creating new urban spaces and parks, and recycling and sustainability efforts. Recently, she worked with fellow alumna Debra A. DeVenezia, MC ’83, and the Jersey City Parks Coalition on an “OcTREEber” initiative, giving away more than 10,000 tulip and daffodil bulbs to residents.

After being absent from the Marymount scene for a few years—busy raising her daughters, advancing her career, engaging with her local community—Mahayosnand reunited with Sister Brigid Driscoll, R.S.H.M., GRE ’02, former president of Marymount College, and other graduates at the 2018 Marymount Reunion, held during Jubilee weekend on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus. Feeling guilty about her recent absence from the Marymount community, Mahayosnand received some much-needed reassurance from Sister Brigid, who told her that her absence was nothing to be sorry about. “And that’s why I’m so invested in Marymount, really. I think all of us have a passion for the environment, the relationships with your professors, the friendships that last lifetimes. It’s really heartfelt. It’s wonderful.”

New Kids on the Block

Since that reunion, Mahayosnand has reengaged with the Marymount Alumnae Association and its board, serving on the events committee prior to being elected president. During the town hall in September, board members “talked about the opportunities and the relationship with Fordham.” (Marymount was part of Fordham from 2002 to 2007, when the college closed, and since then, graduates have gathered for reunions and other events at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus.)  “We couldn’t do a lot of this programming without [Fordham’s] support, or giving us a home.”

Some of the newer initiatives include “Member Mondays” posts on Facebook. For those posts, Mahayosnand said she and her fellow board members are “highlighting [Marymount graduates] and their achievements. And we’re hoping to integrate that into our newsletters [and]class notes with Fordham, giving them more visibility.” There’s also a new virtual choir, whose first meeting was held virtually on Oct. 21. The choir will continue to meet for 30 minutes on Wednesday nights—no prior musical experience required. And on Dec. 6, the alumnae association will hold a virtual Founder’s Day celebration.

With no end to distancing measures in sight, and no shortage of graduates looking to connect with one another, Mahayosnand, the board, and the association have a tall order to fill, but the coterie at the center spurs them all into action.

“It’s just this sisterhood,” Mahayosnand said. “I hope I can create how I’m feeling with the other alumnae so they can reconnect.”