Director of Alumni Affairs takes pride in being a lifelong Firebird

Director of Alumni Affairs takes pride in being a lifelong Firebird

Director of Alumni Affairs takes pride in being a lifelong Firebird


Phomika and her mother at 2005 commencement

Phomika Murphy and her mother, Maryam A.W. Muhammad (Washington Technical Institute ‘73) outside the Washington Convention Center on May 14, 2005.

As director of the Office of Alumni Affairs, Phomika Murphy (’05) is charged with preserving UDC’s rich legacy and engaging graduates worldwide in meaningful activities. Her goal is to keep the Firebird story alive with former students who found their roots at the University, and uncover hidden gems at UDC and legacy institutions.

Murphy is a Firebird promoter in every way. As the director of the Office of Alumni Affairs at the University of the District of Columbia, her passion for the University is contagious. Despite starting her employment at UDC at the beginning of the pandemic, she still found ways to bring people together through online alumni parties with speakers and a live DJ during homecoming week.

“I love that the University is a public, land-grant institution founded in 1851, before the American Civil War, and cannot close its doors to anyone,” Murphy said. “UDC accepts you for who you are, where you are, and immediately thrust students into an incubator of thought leadership. Our alumni have careers in medicine, business, the arts and humanities, lead nonprofits, military leadership and various innovations. Those opportunities still exist in abundance for anyone looking to soar.”

Born and raised in the District, Murphy grew up watching her mother work hard to earn her degree in computer science from the Washington Technical Institute, a UDC legacy institution.

“At times, my mom could not find a babysitter and she would have to bring her three kids to class,” Murphy said. “We would sit quietly in the hallway while she was in class, and if we were good, we were treated to lunch at Falcon Inn. She also brought us to UDC’s large homecoming parade on Connecticut Avenue, an amazing time for my brothers and me. It was my introduction to UDC.”

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Murphy graduated magna cum laude from UDC in 2005 with a degree in sociology and anthropology from the College of Arts and Sciences under Dean Rachel Petty. An avid supporter of equity in education, especially in Ward 8, she served on Councilmember Marion Barry’s Ward 8 Education Council and various School Improvement Teams for DC Public Schools. Murphy has testified before DC Council on community safety, school improvement and UDC’s work east of the river combating food insecurity.

“My experiences at UDC amplifies my service to my beloved Ward 8 community, my current home,” she said. “I can tell young people and adults seeking a career change that we have what you need to succeed at the prestigious University of the District of Columbia.”

Her passion caught the attention of UDC’s Dr. Sabine O’Hara, the former dean of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Studies (CAUSES), who convened a focus group in Murphy’s neighborhood. She was enamored with the prospect of supporting the community through UDC’s agricultural resources. “I didn’t even know we had a farm,” Murphy said.

She worked as Dean O’Hara’s executive assistant for CAUSES from 2017 to 2020 when her love of UDC made her the perfect choice for her current role in supporting alumni. “Colleagues encouraged me to apply, asking that I put my passion and history with UDC to work,” she said. “They could see the connection to community and shared storytelling with fellow alumni.”

As Alumni Director, Murphy is responsible for alumni engagement, including connecting with recent students, a large international contingent, and graduates from our legacy institutions. Murphy produces an alumni newsletter, tracks and celebrates alumni accomplishments, and manages the alumni database. She serves on the board of the UDC National Alumni Society, which plans activities and fundraisers throughout the year.

She is excited when discussing plans to get more alumni involved through mentorship programs and affinity groups to include military and veterans, LGBTQ, international alumni and those under 35.

“The biggest challenge I have is that the University was established in 1976 through a series of mergers of five institutions,” Murphy said. “Many have an affinity for their school. We are trying to get graduates of the legacy institution to understand that their school didn’t close. It merged to become this great institution. The University’s job is to preserve that history and build upon that rich legacy. We are all One UDC.”

Murphy said in 2023, she, along with the UDC National Alumni Society, will begin an oral history project to share the rich history of the predecessor institutions, which include Miner Normal School, Wilson Normal School, Miner Teachers College, Wilson Teachers College, the District of Columbia Teachers College, Federal City College, and Washington Technical Institute, and the University of the District of Columbia.

“The project will document moments in time and history, and capture career successes through a publication and an online presence,” she said. “My goal is to remind DC residents, the Mayor, DC Council and alumni of our greatness. We are a quality, affordable option for higher learning, and higher achievement. It’s time for the Firebird to take flight and soar. Beware of my wingspan.”