Volunteering to Lead: Ken Graff

By UMAA

Volunteering to Lead: Ken Graff

By UMAA
Alumnus Ken Graff is a dedicated leader within the alumni community.

Ken Graff, B.B.A. '98, M.B.A. '03, has been a ’Cane since birth. The son of two University of Miami alumni, Graff grew up a huge ‘Canes sports fan, going to baseball games and attending concerts at Gusman Hall. Later, he became a student himself and was actively involved in student government and other campus organizations.

Graff, Ken

It’s no surprise then that, as an alumnus, Graff has become a dedicated leader within the alumni community. He first joined the Broward County ’Canes to attend events and stay connected to the U but became increasingly involved in helping to promote the group’s programs and connecting alumni with their alma mater. Eventually, Graff was selected as vice-president and most recently president of the Broward County ’Canes.

Today, as his term comes to an end, the two-time alumnus will be joining the University of Miami Citizens Board, a select group of more than 250 South Florida business, professional, and civic leaders who serve as ambassadors for UM.

We touched based with Graff to learn about his time at the U, volunteer leadership, and ’Canes pride.  

What do you remember most about your time at UM?

I remember being involved in everything and meeting so many people with similar interests. I was involved in student government all four years. I was an RA for two years at Mahoney Residential College. I also worked at the business school as a peer counselor and in their computer lab. There was always something going on that you could be involved in and learn something from. There was also a sense of community there and a sense of comfort in knowing that there was always somebody there to talk to.

You were in student government, and now as an alumnus you’ve served in several volunteer leadership roles. What motivates you to be so involved?

After graduation, I went to some events over the years, just to see what was going on and try to stay connected with the University. Eventually, I felt that it was the time to be more involved. I looked to see what was going on and what needed enhancement or more attention. The first thing that I volunteered to do was to help with social media for Broward ’Canes. I wanted to try to get our word out, get more people involved through social media, and create more avenues of communications. Things evolved from there and I had the opportunity to become vice president and then president.

I always want to try to get everybody else to remember the good times and to know that there is a support network here.

How has your time at UM helped in your career?

It's more about the people skills. In my opinion, the curriculum is important but it's more about the relationships and the attention to details. I took a class with Pat Whitely about leadership and organization and that was one of the classes that stuck with me because it was real life experiences. It could relate to pretty much anything that I did back then and do now. 

Are there any programs or events that you're most proud of from your time as a leader of the Broward County 'Canes?

One of the things that I instituted was a monthly networking happy hour. It was an event where people could come and hang out, whether they wanted to network or have a drink with someone. I really enjoyed doing it and having something on the calendar all the time that people could look forward to. You knew there were always going to be regular faces and new people, which brings a level of comfort and a sense of community.

We just hosted a virtual one with the same goal. I ended up meeting new people, and hopefully others did too. That was the whole point - to continue the sense of community and to introduce people to others who have similar interests and similar degrees. I was always just looking to connect people and have a good time at the same time. 

How do you feel about joining the Citizens Board?

It’s a great opportunity in the progression of being more involved. I've met new people that have the same passion for the University, and they're in all kinds of walks of life and business.  

What message would you send to alumni and new grads?

My advice is to stay involved and continue talking to people and making new bonds, because you never know when one conversation is going to open up a door that you didn't even know existed. There are so many opportunities and without being out there and having experiences, you just have no idea what there is. One conversation could change the rest of your life in a positive way, so just continue to network and be positive.