Opening the Door for Alumni

Laura McMaster stands on the pedestian walkway in the shade of a tree on the UT Southern campus

By Jackie Wise | Photo by Raffe Lazarian

An antidote often proclaimed to a person struggling with transition is that, when one door closes, another door opens. For Laura McMasters, the UT Southern director of alumni relations and annual giving, those closed doors have pulled her into 16 years at Martin Methodist College (MMC), with more to come at UT Southern.

In 2005, McMasters says, “I had multiple people direct me to this chaplain’s job at this little college in Tennessee, and I said, ‘Where?’”

Her church and clown ministry experience established a calling that sent McMasters to seminary school.

“The clown experience is where I saw a whole array of the human experience and where I helped bring moments of joy in those experiences, whether it was with people already in joy or people in a desolate place,” she says.

When the door closed on a position she held at a church in Indiana, McMasters found herself open to the idea of moving anywhere east of the Mississippi and within a day’s drive of her family. She began reaching out to her contacts and, call it divine intervention or luck of timing, she arrived at MMC. Within a week, she interviewed, accepted the position, signed on her first house and was introduced as the new chaplain.

Throughout her life, she has felt called to walk alongside others while they discern who they are called to be. For the last 16 years, she has done that as MMC’s chaplain. In that role, she worked with students to implement programs and service efforts, including Martin Serves, a three-part initiative that focused on community services, social justice and service learning.

As MMC became UT Southern, the chaplain’s position was the only one eliminated, and McMasters found herself worrying about her future. But, as her time as chaplain came to a close, the need for a UT Southern alumni director opened.

Three columns on the UT Southern campus

McMasters sees her new role as a continuation of the engagements she has had with students. She’ll reconnect with them, discover where they are now and their gifts and passions. She’ll seek to draw connections between them and helping current and future students find and fulfill their passions.

While she becomes acquainted with her new role, she has her sights set on connecting with as many alumni as possible. She wants to find ways to communicate that giving of one’s self is not just about money but helping the community flourish together through the sharing of time and energy.

McMasters is encouraged by the doors that are opening for the campus. While the name on the sign may have changed, faculty and staff will still walk alongside students and alumni as they find their place in the world.

“The whole family of Martin (Methodist College) connecting with the UT family and community will broaden our connections, broaden our world view and broaden our impact,” she says.

And, besides, she has informed her colleagues, if they ever need a quick prayer, she has a 10-minute one in her back pocket.