Celebrating Twenty Years in One Evening

Article by Kathryn Weiland (QUEST Graduate Assistant)

Twenty years of the IBM-TQ/QUEST program was too significant a milestone to go overlooked. In conversations with The Quality Guild, we determined that a celebratory event was the ideal way to recognize such a momentous occasion. What better way to commemorate this influential program than to invite alumni, former faculty and staff, and university affiliates to meet current students, mingle with QUEST leadership, and reconnect over dinner and good conversation. The QUEST 20th Anniversary Celebration on April 26th, 2012 provided the opportunity to do just that.

As the nearly 340 guests enjoyed refreshments and hors d’oeuvres upon their arrival, the photographs displayed around the ballroom allowed for conversation to flow easily. Alumna Erika Elko (Q14) was impressed by the fact that nearly 100 alumni were in attendance.  “It was great to see all of the cohorts over the last 20 years represented at the celebration. As a student, QUEST created such a strong sense of community. As an alum, I realized those feelings haven’t changed,” said Erika. Students from the newly-admitted Cohort 20 also had their first real taste of what QUEST is all about. Reflecting on the event, new QUESTer Matt Schmitt commented “It was a great opportunity to familiarize myself with current QUEST staff and my fellow Cohort 20 members. The fact that so many alums came out to celebrate QUEST shows that the whole three year experience is truly memorable and will be worth my while.”

Members of Cohort 20 enjoy their first QUEST event

Once guests had taken their seats, the program was led by Lauren Bailey and Femi Sokoya, both seniors from Cohort 17. With much wit and charm, Lauren and Femi provided a brief overview of the history of the IBM-TQ/QUEST program and also introduced some special guests. Dr. Judy Olian and Dr. Arjang Assad, who were both instrumental to the creation of the program and served as the initial Executive Directors, offered video messages and congratulations. “My favorite part of the event was hearing George Dieter, the former Dean of the School of Engineering, speak about the history of the QUEST program and how it came about through a proposal with IBM,” said Sophia Wu (Q18). Jessica O’Keefe (Q18) agreed: “What I enjoyed most about the 20th anniversary celebration was getting to hear more about the beginning of QUEST. The 20th anniversary really is a testament to the continued significance of the principles that QUEST has strived to teach its students from the very beginning.”

Lauren Bailey and Femi Sokoya present a gift to Dr. George Dieter

The seated dinner provided a great opportunity for students, alumni, and faculty and staff to compare their experiences in QUEST and share some favorite memories. It also allowed for excellent networking opportunities. Danny Laurence (Q19) commented that “the QUEST 20th Anniversary event struck the perfect balance between a social event and a professional one. I was able to meet members of the QUEST community I hadn’t met before, while also learning a lot about the history of the program.” Following dinner, the members of Cohort 17 were presented with QUEST medallions, which are worn with their academic regalia at graduation.  Assistant Director Nicole Coomber also provided some concluding remarks as the evening drew to a close.

Alumni from Cohort 14 pose for a photo

The evening truly was a great celebration of this program. From revisiting its roots as IBM-TQ in 1992 to experiencing its staying power as QUEST in 2012 and beyond, guests who attended the 20th Anniversary Celebration could appreciate the sense of community that is so vital to QUEST. Kevin Yue (Q7) thought that “the 20th Anniversary Celebration was a great time to be able to catch up with fellow cohort members as well as those from other cohorts.  Learning more about the history and the future of the QUEST program made me more proud to have been a part of it.” Joel Liebman (Q14) also offered some insightful thoughts about the evening: “The event was a wonderful celebration of all that the QUEST students, alumni, faculty, and staff have accomplished in the last 20 years and the impact the program has had on its people, the University, and the broader community.  Bringing together such a phenomenal group of QUEST contributors past and present was energizing and inspiring.” Although the celebration is behind us, we look forward to creating many more memories in the future as a QUEST community. We hope to see you in five years to celebrate a quarter-century of QUEST!

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