Kimberly A. LaRocca ’06 DH | Building Bridges

As a young girl, Kimberly LaRocca ’06 DH and her family would travel from Southern California to San Francisco every March for a meeting her father, Dr. F. Paul Senise ’65, attended. “I never knew, as a child, what this meeting was and never asked,” she says. Fast forward to 2016, where LaRocca not only attends the spring meeting—the Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association—but as its president, leads it as well. Her father also served as president of the Alumni Association.

In addition to being the first daughter of a previous president to hold the position of president herself, LaRocca is the first dental hygiene graduate to head the Alumni Association.  “I started in 2007 as a board member, and I served six years,” she says. “During the last year, I didn’t want to leave, and to continue on you have to move up the ladder.”

LaRocca was nominated for president, but held her breath, not sure it would come to fruition. All previous Alumni Association Presidents have been dentists.

When she was elected last March 2016, LaRocca was thrilled. “This is an incredible opportunity to give back to a University that has given me my professional career,” she explains. “It has provided me with an inner confidence to lead, given me a higher obligation and a greater sense of purpose.”

LaRocca didn’t necessarily plan to pursue a career in dentistry. She graduated from University of the Pacific in 1989 with a bachelor of arts degree in communication, along with her twin sister, Dr. Kristina Cameron ’98 DDS. She then spent 13 years working in San Francisco in technology as a human resources staffing manager, responsible for more than 400 job orders, including international and domestic hiring. It does get a little emotional, adds LaRocca. “I don’t think my father ever thought any of his daughters would follow in his profession, and to share this experience with him has been very touching.”

In 2001, LaRocca went back to school, spending two years taking science prerequisites, before being admitted to Pacific’s Dental Hygiene Program in Stockton, and then graduating in 2006. Since then, Kimberly has been working full time in private practice.

[pullquote]Kimberly is the first dental hygiene graduate to head the Alumni Association[/pullquote]

“Because of her corporate background, she understands working with a wide variety of opinions,” her father says. “She listens to all sides, then tries to incorporate them into the decision-making process in a way that will make everyone happy. I think that’s probably her biggest strength, as well as her attention to detail.”

As Alumni Association president, LaRocca hopes to continue to foster a lifelong relationship between the dental school and its graduates. “We want alumni to be involved in the school—giving back, participating in events and, of course, coming back to attend our Alumni Association Annual Meeting in March,” she says.

Also on the agenda is increasing participation among dental hygienists. “There are now 200 dental hygiene alumni, and only about a handful are active, dues-paying members of the Alumni Association,” she says. “We definitely want to increase that.”

When the clinical portion of the Dental Hygiene Program moves from Stockton to University of the Pacific’s San Francisco campus in January 2017, there may be more opportunities for dental hygiene students to participate in events, says LaRocca. “They’ll be on campus, interfacing with dentists and dental students, hearing about and attending events. There’s enthusiasm and excitement among the dental hygiene alumni but they just need more communication and a welcome to the association.”

“When we talk about the Dugoni family, the dental hygienists are very much a part of that family,” says Senise.

In addition to building and maintaining relationships, another goal for the Alumni Association is to address the use of technology in communicating with alumni. “We’re more time poor today,” says LaRocca. “I think people definitely want information faster, and technology has changed the way we think about providing service to our members.” But there’s not a one-size-fits-all way of communicating, adds LaRocca. Instead, it’s about discovering the ways members are comfortable communicating.

Just as it was years ago, the Alumni Association’s main event is the Annual Meeting. Though it’s a lot of work organizing luncheons, speakers, continuing education and other events, it’s also “an awful lot of fun,” says LaRocca. “And it’s a great opportunity for classmates to come back and see each other.”

The Alumni Association is not just an organizational presence for students after they graduate. “We welcome new students at the Cioppino Dinner during the first week of school, we’re part of the White Coat Ceremony the second year and we host the Alumni/Graduate Banquet during graduation weekend. We’re here to support, guide and mentor Dugoni School alumni,” says LaRocca. That’s how family works.