By Chaunte'l Powell
Alumna Charlianne Nestlen, ’90, will return to serve the university she feels has given so much to her when she begins her second tenure as USC Upstate’s director of alumni relations in January.
Nestlen arrives with a wealth of experience that includes being a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Caine; director of strategic partnerships for the Boy Scouts of America; and a previous stint as director of alumni relations.
As a student, she was an active member of several campus organizations. Nestlen notes it was the guidance and care she experienced at Upstate that helped mold her into a leader and give her the confidence to succeed in her career.
“Like most of our student population, I was a first-generation college student,” she says. “I had no idea how any of the things worked – the financial aid, the enrollment process, anything.”
Yet, she says, she not only joined a sorority, she became its president. “I just think there’s so many more opportunities that Upstate gives that you’re not going to find on other campuses,” Nestlen says. “And it’s not even because of the size. I really think it’s because of the engagement piece.”
Nestlen feels now is a perfect time to return to Upstate, and is inspired by Chancellor Bennie Harris’ vision for the university.
“I love Dr. Harris’ theme of Reimagine,” she says. “Coming back in a post-COVID society, what does alumni relations look like? What does being engaged at a college and university look like? I think we’re going to see a lot of things change about colleges.
“Because of COVID, I feel like we can kind of get rid of the things that were never working to begin with but that we were doing because you felt like it was something you had to do,” she adds.
Her immediate focus will be looking into what really appeals to alumni and acting based on their wants and needs. She also wants to connect with current students, as they will be the alumni of tomorrow.
“I’m excited about that because there are endless opportunities to engage in ways that you wouldn’t even know,” she says.
In turn, Nestlen hopes the engagement will entice more legacy students to enroll and help Upstate build pride in its traditions. Many of her Upstate friends have children in high school who are getting ready to apply for college, she notes, which is the perfect time to get alums engaged.
“Encourage your child to go to your alma mater,” she says. “I can tell you right now someone who went to Harvard would lose their mind if their child didn’t go to Harvard. So how do we change that narrative where we have that pride? And it’s already started. I think there’s some good work already in place and I think we’re right there on the cusp.”