Years ago, UAA student Byron Lowe II became hooked on Survivor, the TV show that strands two “tribes” of strangers in isolated locales where they must find food, water and shelter. Players are eliminated until a “Sole Survivor” remains.
“My grandmother loved Survivor,” said Byron, supervisor of UAA’s Phonathon. “I’d watch it with her when I was a kid. Each season’s different depending on who you’re with. At first, you can’t be a physical or social threat; you have to stay under the radar but be willing to make a big move for people to want to vote for you at the end. The minute the merge happens, you have to talk to cast members to make them root for you.”
The social and psychological intricacies of Survivor fascinated Byron so much that he declared a double major in marketing and management when he first enrolled at UAA.
“You have to know your target audience, have to know how you come off to people,” he said. “You have to be socially aware and strategically fit.”
‘Every kid wants a friend’
Byron was born in Berkeley, Calif., and, until he was 8, lived in adjacent Oakland. Then his mother decided to move up to Anchorage to take care of Byron’s ailing great-grandmother.
“I’d been here every summer,” he said. “I wasn’t happy about moving here because I knew I’d be leaving most of my family in California. My parents divorced when I was 3; just my mom’s mom’s side of the family is up here in Alaska.”
Byron, his mother and his two sisters lived on the south side of Anchorage. He attended Sand Lake Elementary School. “I still remember my first day, being the new kid,” he said. “Everyone else had known each other for years.”
He made friends fast, with kids in the neighborhood. Byron liked video games, riding his bike and especially liked playing baseball, which he’d started playing in California when he was 5.
“I played baseball for 13 years, middle infield, second base and shortstop,” he said. “My sister played softball—I would always be the one pulling her outside to play catch and was always focused on helping her improve. I also played a lot of volleyball. They’re very similar—you either hit a ball or spike a ball as hard as you can.”
Byron went on to attend Dimond High School, where he became president of the Partners Club, which sought to create meaningful, fun connections with students living with physical and mental challenges.
“Once or twice a week we’d have lunch together, participate in competitions like Special Olympics bowling, Polar Plunge,” Byron said. “The club existed but participation was super low when I got to Dimond; it wasn’t advertised so people didn’t know about it.”
Byron, by the time he was in high school, knew many people. He told everyone he could about the club.
“And they’d go,” he said. “The people who have disabilities, they just want to have fun, be included. Every kid wants a friend. It was really cool being able to provide my friendship and 64 other friends. Partners Club was held in a huge classroom, which was almost empty when I started going; my last meeting senior year, it was packed with new members.”
‘I’ve accomplished a lot’
Making connections is still Byron’s passion, here at UAA.
He’s a protégé in the College of Business and Public Policy’s Leadership Fellows program, which pairs high-performing CBPP students with mentors from Anchorage’s business community. Byron’s mentor is Ken Miller, president and CEO of Denali FSP Fundraising Consultants.
“I went to a consulting meeting with him,” Byron said, “where a [nonprofit] wanted to increase their growth with millennials. I didn’t help him teach it but I’d have answers about the millennials’ mindset. I could see myself doing that. I have enough practice with social media that I know about KPIs, analytics, identifying your target audience, matching your content to your target audience. Those are assets that help companies.”
Byron says he tries to connect and network with as many people as he can and is eager to amass new skills and enriching experiences.
He learned through job shadowing at Spawn advertising agency that working in a fast-paced job would be a good choice for growing a career, which led him to try a retail management internship with Nordstrom. He’s also interned for Tutor Doctor.
Now, Byron is working as an intern for the Anchorage School District while shouldering 22 credits worth of classes and participating in the UAA Public Relations Student Society of America and Management and Marketing clubs—last year, he helped with social media promotion for the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon.
Byron is among the students receiving Chancellor’s Martin Luther King Jr. Student Appreciation Awards at a brunch Jan. 28.
Byron also supervises a staff of 15 Phonathon callers—students who contact alumni to raise money for UAA scholarships.
“I raised more than $20,000 in one school year when in California; I was at the top of the leaderboards,” Byron said, referring to his national student exchange stint at University of California Northridge, where, in his spare time, he’d snag tickets online to attend game shows like The Price Is Right.
How does a caller make connections that will help make a college education attainable for students needing scholarship help?
“You have to build rapport,” said Byron, who is in his fourth year with Phonathon at UAA. “When we call alumni, I want to know why they chose UAA, what they did with their degree, favorite teacher, favorite class. At that point, we’re connected. They’re not giving $100 to a stranger; they’re giving $100 to a friend.”
Phonathon raised more than $130,000 last year, Byron said.
While in Phonathon, Byron took part in a UAA advertising campaign highlighting the university’s students: his life-sized photo faced passengers in the “A” terminal at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
Chris Triplett says Byron’s enthusiasm has boosted Phonathon.
“Byron grabbed it by the reins,” said Triplett, Phonathon manager. “We’ve really taken it to the next level because of his open-mindedness and energy.”
Byron plans to graduate in May. After that, he envisions moving back to Los Angeles and finding a career in the marketing department of a large, well-established company.
“Something huge is what I want to be a part of,” he said. “I’m confident. I’m 21 years old and I’ve accomplished a lot at a young age. I’ve studied theories in class, worked in the real world and I have experience. I can say, ‘I did that already.’ That’s a cool feeling for me.”
Written by Tracy Kalytiak, University of Alaska Anchorage