The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Jo McCulty

Q&A with alumni board member Rosa Ailabouni

Learn what drives Rosa Ailabouni ’01, ’01 to advocate passionately for her clients and alma mater alike.

Rosa Ailabouni ’01, ’01 has traveled the world as a consultant helping clients across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to deliver on their missions and solve their problems. She was well prepared for these adventures through her Ohio State experience, having studied international studies, political science, French and economics. Most recently, she has served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, first at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and now with the Midwest regional field offices.

“To be able to go into different environments, understand what the problems are and work through them to get to solutions is why I love doing what I do. And going anywhere in the world with an Ohio State shirt or hat, you know you’re going to get an ‘I-O’ back for every ‘O-H’ along the way. It has happened to me in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Paris and even in Dublin, Ireland, while watching an Ohio State-Michigan game with fellow Buckeyes who gathered from across Europe to watch The Game! Knowing that you have that community creates an amazing bond. Whether we’re celebrating a football win or just sharing concern about each other, we’re there for each other.”

How did your Ohio State experience prepare you for your professional career and for your role as a volunteer and leader beyond the university?

As an undergraduate, I collaborated with students from across all different majors, grades, ethnic backgrounds, religions, interests and housing arrangements as well as with faculty and staff. Having that exposure to different ideas was essential in preparing for my professional career while working in the U.S. and abroad. I always wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of others, which I feel I have done both domestically and internationally through my work as a consultant to government, nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies.

What is your most memorable day as an alum?

Returning from London, England, to receive the William Oxley Thompson Alumni Award for young alumni achievement from former OSUAA President and CEO Archie Griffin. Seeing my parents and having my husband and my oldest daughter there was really a special moment for me.

What was your most memorable day as a student?

My most memorable days were at the Honors House and the Ohio Union, which is where I spent most of my time hanging out with friends during Honorary and Undergraduate Student Government meetings, and, of course, BuckeyeThon planning meetings! Many of those friends continue to be in my life today. I’m very grateful for that.

Who is your mentor as an alum?

I continue to have Dr. Mabel Freeman as a mentor and friend in my life. Dr. J [Javaune Adams-Gaston], the former senior vice president for student life, became a mentor and friend while she was at Ohio State. I also have had several industry mentors and peer mentors who provide me with guidance and support.

What is your most meaningful piece of Ohio State gear?

One of the most recent pieces of memorabilia that I received soon after I became an OSUAA board member was a BuckeyeStrong pin. To me, it symbolizes that as a community, we can put aside our differences and come together to support one another. That has taken on even greater meaning as we all work together through COVID-19.

Tell me what BuckeyeThon means to you since you were instrumental in starting it and this is the 20th — and a very unusual — year.

BuckeyeThon has become a meaningful philanthropic tradition on campus, but also for my family. Every year, we have made it a priority to attend BuckeyeThon and to continue to support the BuckeyeThon student leadership and dancers in an effort to end pediatric cancer. My kids now have grown up coming to BuckeyeThon annually. My oldest daughter looks forward to going every year because she loves seeing and dancing with the students. She has even formed relationships with the families and the children who have been through so much to beat cancer. This year will be unusual since we won’t have 5,000 students dancing in the ballroom. But given that everything has now gone virtual, I’m hoping that more students, faculty, staff and alumni will be able to attend and participate! Although this year is unique, I think we can make it just as memorable for students and Buckeye Nation!

Why do you serve on the OSUAA board?

Serving gives me an opportunity to continue to support and give back to the university that has given so much to me. This year, as a board member on the Philanthropic Committee, I chaired the Buckeyes Helping Buckeyes initiative. The goal of this effort is to let Buckeyes know that we are here to help our fellow alumni across the country and around the globe who are in immediate need of assistance. The idea is that when the individual gets back on their feet, he or she will want to give back and continue the spirit of paying forward. We all need a little help sometimes and knowing that a fellow alum cares and is providing a donation to help out is just a small token of the kind of culture we have created at Ohio State within our student and alumni bodies. So, why do I serve on the OSUAA board ? It’s so I can pay forward.

About the author

About the author

Dan Caterinicchia

Dan Caterinicchia (he/him/his) is assistant vice president for strategy and administration in the Office of Advancement, where he has held various positions in the last five years. He previously taught in the School of Communication, overseeing the Lantern Media Group and its incredible students for much of his time there. Dan lives in Columbus with his wife and three children.