My first session from this year’s CASE conference was a panel discussion with the name “Your institution needs you! The rise of alumni relations”. The panel consisted of:
– Michael Farthing, Vice Chancellor, University of Sussex,
– Lucian Hudson, Director of communication, the Open University,
– Jeremy Reffin, Research Fellow, University of Sussex
– Paul Mylrea, Director of communication, BBC
It turned out to be a very interesting discussion and the red thread being the challenges for alumni relation officers in the future. A lot of comparisons were made between the US and Europe since Jeremy Reffin in the pane was an alumni of both University of Sussex as well as Harvard Business School.
Since universities in the US is more efficient in fundraising and keeping good relations to the alumni, is the solution to just copy their model? No one in the panel believed that would work. Europe can probably learn a lot from studying the methods used in the states, but cultural differences make it difficult to just copy their model. Another problem is that universities have different values and different cultures even within a country. To copy a model and implement it without taking these into account would be extremely difficult.
Instead every university must find their own way. One of the biggest challenges is to match the capabilities of the universities with the various strengths of the alumni and potential alumni. Universities cannot afford to wait cultivating the students when they have graduated. Instead they should strive to build a strong relationship with their students while they are studying. The panel saw a great unused potential here and was convinced that this will be a key factor in building a successful alumni network. “Senior students are gold dust for the universities”, Jeremy concluded.
Written by Johan Johannesson, Mira Network