Round Table Brownbag Summary: Alumni Connections (October 1, 2009)

Alumni Connections (October 1, 2009)

Summary: Jessica Santos from Organizational Studies presented a variety of methods that they use to keep their alumni involved in their program.  They try to include current students in their outreach efforts so that these students are prompted to think early on about how they might (want to) be involved in the program once they become alums.  In this connection, current ORGSTD students and alumni organize an annual Alumni Panel, which covers post-graduation experiences and destinations (e.g., corporate sector, non-profit sector, graduate/professional schools).  This is usually timed for a Sunday after a big football game when alumni might be in town.  Based on feedback from current students, this event has become a more informal one where students and alumni have some opportunity to socialize and engage in free-flowing conversation and Q&A. ORGSTD also features some alumni in their Monthly Organizational Studies Talks series and invites their alumni to contribute to their weekly newsletter.  Lastly, they have recently developed a LinkedIn community for alumni, as well as current students, faculty, GSIs and staff, which they chose over Facebook because of their focus on professional development.  (Whether using LinkedIn or Facebook, time should be devoted on the front end to determine the main function, audience, and plan for maintaining/managing the site.  The initial set up should only take an hour or so.)

Challenges: The main challenges in keeping alumni involved in the department community are: 

  1.  keeping track of them once they leave campus and the UM email system;  
  2. determining how best to communicate with them (see also the Effective Communication Summary).

Recommendations: In the subsequent discussion, some best practices and recommendations emerged:

  • Start early in encouraging students to reflect on their role and connection to the department once they join the alumni ranks.
  • Build a strong sense of community in the department so that there is an additional incentive for students to want to stay connected (see Building Community for Majors Summary).
  • Survey your graduating seniors and/or recent alumni and include questions on:
    • The means and timing of communication that might be most likely to get their attention
    • What they would like to hear about from the department
    • How they would like to stay involved in the department, or what might entice them to do so

CRLT offers consulting on developing surveys:

  • Partner with other campus offices, e.g., The Alumni Association, The Career Center, and U-M and LSA Development offices: All of these offices track students after graduation and are willing to work and share information with departments.

Other Possibilities: A few other methods of maintaining connection with alumni were mentioned. 

  • Communications holds two annual events in which alumni participate.  One is a half-day event focused on careers in entertainment media.  The second is a panel on Communications fields. 
  • German is developing a searchable database of alumni which will connect to social/professional networking profiles.
  • Women’s Studies uses their Capstone Course to connect current students to alumni.  Last year one of the assignments in this course was to interview an alumnus.  This year the students in this course will develop a Facebook group for alumni.  (See also the Capstone Experience Summary.)


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