When it comes to networking, college students are open to any resources that will help them find a job after they graduate or help them gain new knowledge in their field. A lot of times this means using alumni to their advantage whether by conducting informational interviews, having alumni serve as a mentor or using them as a job connection. “It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you know” is a phrase most people have heard. Yet, after speaking with a range of Albion alums at an alumni event in New York this past summer, the alumni and I began to speculate if Albion was using alumni to their full potential.
At the event, about 15 alumni gathered at a restaurant in Manhattan to reminisce on old times, connect with friends and get filled in on what has changed since they left campus.
A couple of them remarked how exciting it is that Albion is now hosting alumni events in the New York area, which got strange looks from other alumni who told them there had been multiple events in the past.
Some guests said they were never emailed about attending, despite having updated the college with their information. Instead, they heard about it through Albion friends in the city whom they were still connected with. It also came up that many of the people who had heard about the event or past events have donated to the college since graduating, while others who weren’t emailed about the event have yet to give back. Whether or not the amount they have donated is related to getting invited, it still left a few alumni feeling like the college only cared about them for the donations.
Maintaining positive alumni relations and staying connected to them is incredibly important. The organization Supporting Education agrees saying, “Keeping in close contact with, and continuing to recognize alumni for their excellence is one of the most surefire ways for universities to both cultivate their community and continue to receive monetary support from alumni.”
Other colleges have social media pages and groups specific to alumni that brag about their achievements and keep them connected to campus. After a quick search of Albion’s alumni website and Facebook, I could not come across any social media sites for our alumni. This limits the amount that can be shared about alumni activities on social media because Albion’s current social media sites cater to prospective and currents students as well as alumni.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education mentions that, “If the relationship between your alumni and your institution stalls when they leave campus, their knowledge of your activities and achievements will no longer evolve. The messages they will share with people will be out-of-date and could reflect poorly on the progress your institution has since achieved.”
Despite having at least 100 alumni in the greater New York area, if you look at Albion College’s alumni chapters listed on their website, there is not one for that area. The only east coast alumni chapters are the New England Chapter and the Washington D.C. Chapter, neither of which include New York City. Compared to other colleges, Albion’s network of alumni chapters is quite small. There are 10, half of which are just different areas in Michigan. Hillsdale College boasts only nine alumni chapters, but eight of them are dedicated to staying connected with graduates outside of Michigan. Although the University of Michigan has a much larger network than Albion College, the fact they boast 97 alumni chapters can be a selling point for prospective students that Albion will struggle to compete with.
The article “The Importance of Alumni Networks” on College Transition’s site reinforces this in an article saying, “During the college selection process, give careful consideration to the strength of an alumni network in your future career field and geographic region. No matter where you attend school, connecting with alumni in your area of career interest is a solid investment of your time and energy that can pay dividends upon graduation.”
Since this past summer I have heard about numerous successful alumni through resources outside of the college. And it was just one more thing that made me wonder, are Albion and its students truly connected to the alumni, and what more can we do to make alumni across the country still feel connected?
Photo by Katie Boni
Editor’s Note: While the Pleiad stands by everything in this opinion piece, we should have included the perspective of Institutional Advancement. We have reached out to IA, and we will update this article as necessary.
It is unfortunate that The Pleiad did not speak to anyone in Institutional Advancement before publishing an opinion piece headlined “Allowing Alumni to Slip Through the Cracks” in the October 14 issue. Because, as it turns out, a great success story is developing.
In the past year, an expanded team in IA has made more connections with alumni than perhaps at any time in the last four years. The team, now with a geographical focus, has spread out from one end of the country to the other touting Albion and the benefits of a world-class liberal arts education. Throughout our travels, from individual visits to events large and small, we are continually amazed by our alumni. We want them to be a part of everything we do; perhaps more important, we want them to feel, deep down, that their input is wanted and valued. Because it is.
That’s not to say there isn’t work to be done. Albion boasts one of the most dedicated alumni bases in the country and we are proud of that. But, sometimes, the message doesn’t find everyone, and that can be for a variety of reasons. We can, and we will, improve in that area.
We will continue to strive to include all our alumni in everything we do because we know how important they are, and how important they will continue to be.
And that’s a story everyone should know about.