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December 29, 2006

University of Washington and their Endless Campus Online

One way to keep alumni informed, connected, and engaged is through the use of recorded lectures so all alumni can take part in campus lectures - even if they can't be there in person.  The University of Washington is doing just this with their Endless Online Campus.  By offering this ability to alumni, they are creating a fuller alumni online environment, which will only increase the activity, the connectedness, and the interest in University of Washington's alumni online community.  The more that alumni know about what is happening on campus, the more they will feel as if they are still in the fold of their alma mater. 

Mr. John Burkhardt, Manager of Online Services for University of Washington's Alumni Association, says, "In keeping with our goal to share the best of the University with our alumni and friends, we, for many years, have presented evening lectures on a wide variety of topics.  Although upwards of eighty percent of the alumni of University of Washington stay within the Western Washington area, we realized that there were many alumni and friends in other parts of the United States, and elsewhere, who could not be present in person at these events."

He also states, "Although we are still working out the best funding model, our goal is to audio and/or video-record all lectures that we present ourselves, or that we present in partnership with academic units.  Through partnerships with UWTV (the University's cable television channel) and TVW (the State of Washington's public access cable channel), many lectures are aired throughout Washington State, as well as nationally on the Research Channel.  These video programs are also streamed for viewing via the Web.  We also stream the audio portions of many lectures on the Web, and soon will be making those available via Podcasting."

This is an exciting time for all alumni who want to stay informed with what is going on with their alma mater.  Never before has technology been so capable in reaching out across the world, wherever alumni happen to reside, and pulling them all together.  One addition that may make sense, and increase participation and interest, is to create a bulletin board that students and alumni can access to discuss the lectures in detail. 

University of Washington is working hard to keep all of their alumni not only informed, but also connected.  By the utilization of their online campus, their community will continue to grow and prosper.

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 29, 2006 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

December 27, 2006

McGill University - Toronto Young Alumni Survey

Surveys are a powerful way to get buy-in from young alumni, which is an extremely important step in creating a cohesive and connected online alumni community.  McGill University's Toronto Alumni Association has done just that with their Toronto Young Alumni.  This survey deals specifically with Young Alumni events.  They begin asking about events of interest, what the favorable cost per event is, and then move on to questions about locality, frequency, and area support.  Rounding out the survey is an open text box that asks for comments, so young alumni have the freedom to respond in a fuller way than just simply answering questions allows.  To elicit more excitement, the Alumni Association offers a drawing to all those entered by a certain date, with the winner receiving a McGill prize. Everyone loves prizes!

This survey was the idea of Namita Kumar, Chair of the Toronto Young Alumni Committee.  Namita, with the assistance of Emily Kulin, a Development Associate in the Ontario Regional Office of McGill Development, Alumni and University Relations (DAUR), took the idea and put it together into the finished survey.  Members of the DAUR e-communications team, e-communications editor, Daniel Chonchol, and e-communications intern Michelle Tsang, put the survey onto the Alumni Online Community, and then produced a broadcast email targeted at Toronto Young Alumni to inform them of the survey.  In the Alumni Online Community, the survey has been strategically linked to from the first page of the Toronto Branch website.   

Daniel Chonchol states, "The survey is very brief, very specific, and very easy to fill out and was created with in-house content management software.  It generates an email output that is received by Emily Kulin in the DAUR Ontario office.  Emily is continuing to collate the survey results, but so far seventy-five alumni have responded.  The broadcast email announcing the survey was sent to about 2,300 individuals.  The response rate of three percent is not enormous, but is fairly decent for a survey of this nature.  Perhaps, more importantly, it has become a way to engage young alumni in Alumni Association activities.  A large proportion of respondents have not previously had any involvement with the McGill Alumni Association, and several respondents are new graduates ('06).  We think the use of the survey is a good example of combining the functionality of an online community with the use of targeted email to increase alumni participation, and young alumni participation in particular."

To further encourage respondents, it may be helpful to add a question pertaining to the careers of young alumni.  By asking what sort of help they felt they needed in this area, the Alumni Association may receive more feedback and continued interest from their young alumni. 

Online surveys are an excellent way to engage alumni in the events of their alma mater.  McGill University's Toronto Alumni Association has created a very important first step in keeping their young alumni interested, connected, and engaged.

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 27, 2006 at 02:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Links to this Article

December 23, 2006

University of St. Thomas - Young Alumni Council

Getting young alumni involved within the alumni online community is an important undertaking for every college and university.  With so many other social networking sites available online, it is far too easy to lose the interest of young alumni.  The University of St. Thomas has succeeded in not only pulling in that interest, but also in maintaining it with their young alumni.  The Young Alumni Group at the University of St. Thomas consists of approximately thirty or so alumni who have graduated within the past five years.  This group plans social, educational, and service events for other young alumni.

The council meets as a group on a quarterly basis, as well as in smaller committees on an as needed basis.  Some of the larger events they have planned in the past include a post-Homecoming gathering, a Christmas reception, a food drive, and a brewery tour.  This group also participates in other general alumni association events, such as the First Friday Luncheon Series and the Community Cleanup service event.  By involving young alumni in this way, the University of St. Thomas is increasing awareness in their alumni association quickly after graduation, and in turn, have a fuller and more connected alumni experience - both online and off.  The planning committee for this council includes seventeen alumni, graduating from 2001 to 2005, and all are listed on the Young Alumni Group page. 

Katie Stephens, Program Manager, Alumni and Constituent Relations, states, "The Council is instrumental in helping the alumni association get recent graduates involved with us as soon as possible after graduation.  Young alumni are active participants in a number of our general alumni events due in part to the work of our Young Alumni Council."

A few things to consider to bring this concept to the next level would include possibilities such as; videos of previous meetings, a blog where attendees share their participation in an ongoing context, photos, comments, and a general overview of each meeting including a list of those that attended.  These ideas may create more enthusiasm from other young alumni and propel them to join the fold. 

Generating excitement, interest, and ongoing communication is the key to developing a cohesive and fully connected alumni environment.  The Young Alumni Group at the University of St. Thomas is an excellent example of including recent graduates into the alumni association and will go a long way toward enriching the overall experience of all the alumni.

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 23, 2006 at 05:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

December 20, 2006

Lehigh University - Club Event Marketing

Events and activities abound within colleges, universities, and their alumni associations throughout each year.  For any event to be successful, communication and marketing need to be addressed from day one of the planning to the date of the actual event.  Lehigh University's Alumni Association has created a page on their website for Event Marketing Requests.  This page gives alumni volunteers the ability to submit their marketing requests in advance, along with all the necessary information about the event itself.

In this way, clubs can get valuable support from their alumni association in order to better promote their events and activities.  What a great way to use the alumni online community!  The request form itself is simple, yet asks all the right questions required to successfully market an upcoming event and/or activity; from who the invitational demographics of the event are, to the standard (but necessary) location, date, and cost information.  Once the request form is submitted, the event/activity itself will eventually appear on Lehigh University's Alumni Association's Event Calendar, so alumni planning their schedule for upcoming months can easily find it with the click of a mouse key.

Chris Marshall, Alumni Director, states, "We conduct over 400 events every year... many/most of them are planned and managed by our volunteers.  By creating a page on our website that allows alumni volunteers to submit their marketing requests in advance, we have streamlined the process, eliminated data entry errors, reduced work load on our staff, set clear expectations for volunteers about lead time needed, and have created a manageable work flow in our production schedule.  A win all around!"

Communication is of key importance in developing effective marketing programs for events and/or activities.  With Lehigh University's Alumni Association's Event Marketing Request form, opening the lines of communication between clubs and the alumni association is simple, effective, and the results equal a fuller and more connected community.

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 20, 2006 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

December 18, 2006

Yale Alumni - Participating in Team Sports

Sports Social Networking is a tremendous way for sports-minded alumni to get together, stay connected, and retain that energizing team spirit from their college days.  Yale alumni in the Washington, DC area are doing just that - and they're having a fantastic time in the process. 

Yale Alumni Sports offers alumni the ability to sign up as a participant in various sporting leagues, or to simply come and watch the games in order to cheer the teams on.  Co-ed team events include soccer, softball, basketball, and flag football - and all are played against alumni squads from over fifty other colleges! 

This is a great way to connect with other alumni who love sports, whether as a participant or as a spectator!  In addition, it adds a compelling component to the alumni online community.  What better way to engage those alumni that spent their college years heavily involved in sports than to actively encourage team events on an ongoing basis?  Events and activities are important in alumni online communities, and when the spirit of competition is added, it creates an exciting dynamic for all those involved.

The Yale Club of Washington DC realizes how important it is to keep alumni in the fold.  Being able to connect with those that walked the same campus grounds, that took the same classes, and that shared the same professors, enriches the alumni environment in a unique and powerful way.  When that time is spent on the same team, striving for the same goal, it only increases the strength of that experience, and therefore, that feeling of connectedness.  When alumni can come together to connect, network, reminisce - whether it happens at a sporting event, a reunion, or on a message board - the end result is a more cohesive community, both online and offline.

Sports social networking is just one way to create the cohesiveness that every alumni online community strives to reach.  However, for those that love the sporting life - it's definitely one of the most exciting!

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 18, 2006 at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

December 16, 2006

University of Michigan - Networking for Success

In today's technological age, and the world of online communities we live in, it is essential for a university to bring something more to the table for their alumni to stay connected, engaged, and interested in their alma mater.  Often, this responsibility lies in the hands of the alumni association.  Those associations that offer networking advantages to their alumni within the online community are finding not only a fuller and richer experience within the community, but an increased awareness among all alumni that participate.

Using the Internet to build a networking group of people, all with different specialties, is not only a tool to keep a community prospering - but it is smart and sage business advice for the alumni that do so.  In June of 2004, when University of Michigan alum Josh Fox decided to begin a networking group with his fellow alumni, he knew the potential was huge.  Now, two and a half years later, not only has the original Business and Professional Networking Group proved to be successful, but a secondary group has also been created in order to establish even more contacts. 

Josh is a financial advisor, and when he realized that University of Michigan has the largest amount of living alumni in the United States, he knew that tapping into those resources would make an immense difference in his business.  He states that, "The response has been tremendous.  Easily forty percent of my stable client base is UM alumni, and that ratio is closer to fifty percent of my new client total."

In addition, this New York based networking group has joined up with a larger business networking group that arranges at least two meetings per month.  These meetings encompass other area networking groups, which allow the University of Michigan alumni a chance to further their networking beyond the original scope.  In other words, their contacts in the business world have the capability of enlarging at a steady rate throughout the year. 

While it may be worthwhile to include a list of the participants within the online community, and what specialties they serve within the networking group, as well as ongoing activity posts to show what happens at these monthly meetings, the success of this networking group has proved priceless to all those involved.  Josh's efforts and excitement for University of Michigan's networking group provided the basis for this success, but each alumni's participation and ongoing commitment to the group will keep it going strong.

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 16, 2006 at 06:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Links to this Article

December 13, 2006

University of Mississippi - Promoting the Games!

University of Mississippi, or "Ole Miss," has found an excellent way to pull their alumni back into the excitement of the games.  Sporting games, that is.  They are actively promoting their Football Schedule so alumni can make plans to attend games, whether they are home games or away.  It's a great way to encourage participation and that wonderful feeling of camaraderie that fans of sports all seem to share.  Especially when those fans all have one very important thing in common - their alma mater.

University of Mississippi recognizes this "team spirit," and is actively igniting the flame by posting the football schedule within the alumni online community.  Nostalgia is a huge pull for most people, and most alumni have very fond memories of their college days - and many of those memories are likely centered around the excitement of the games.  Memories are one of the major factors that help in keeping any group of people connected, and alumni are no different.  By posting this schedule, University of Mississippi is triggering all the excitement of the college years for their alumni.  This will lead to a greater sense of community for those that participate.

Once the alumni are engaged, the University could go another step to increase this level of connectedness.  By offering contests to give away tickets, for example, the base excitement that already exists would literally explode.  After all, EVERYONE loves contests!  Also, they could sell tickets right from the website to grab those impulse buyers caught in the middle of reminiscing!  Another thought is to allow a message board for the games themselves, where alumni fans could post comments, encouragement, and share their excitement in a very visible format. 

One of the most important aspects of any online community is to bring people together in a way that is exciting and fun.  By posting their sporting schedules, the University of Mississippi is allowing the memories of the fun and exciting college days to enter the minds of their alumni.  While a few additional steps would bring this to another level, it is a terrific way to begin a process that can only lead to a fuller online community experience for all of University of Mississippi's alumni!

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 13, 2006 at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

December 10, 2006

University of Technology Sydney and Lifelong Learning

Continuing Professional Education and Lifelong Learning are programs that the University of Technology Sydney has developed a strong and ongoing commitment for.  Few colleges are reaching out to their alumni in this fashion, but UTS offers Lifelong Learning Programs to all of their alumni.  This is an excellent way to serve alumni's changing educational needs as their professional life after college continues to develop and grow.

UTS alumni can choose from a myriad of short courses by simply using a drop down menu of various criteria to search from.  The list is huge!  UTS offers short courses in twenty three different areas; from Accounting and Finance, to Design, to IT and Computing, to Media, to Science - and everything imaginable in between.  Each area offers anywhere from one to many different course choices for their alumni to focus on.  It really is an incredible option for University of Technology Sydney's alumni. 

If you take a closer look at one of the short courses offered, Developing High Performance Teams, for example, you'll notice that all of the information that alumni would need to know is listed.  There is a course description that details who will benefit from taking the course, along with entry requirements, information on the instructor, a breakdown of the agenda, as well as the cost of the course.  In this case, the cost is highlighted in a blue box in the upper right of the screen, and is shown as $865.00 (Australian).   

Whenever a university offers lifelong learning opportunities to their alumni, they are positively reconnecting with the alumni and, at the same time, are building a bridge back to campus.  Also, this is a great way to engage alumni and keep them interested in their alma mater.  Delivering additional education adds to the overall value of alumni associations in general - and it does so in a powerful and compelling way!   In addition, programs such as this are terrific ways to increase revenue for the university and for the alumni association.  Offering continuing education and lifelong learning courses to alumni, as UTS is doing, is a best practice that more universities should definitely consider. 

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 10, 2006 at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

December 08, 2006

Indiana University’s School of Medicine Mentoring Program

One of the most rewarding, and satisfying, roles alumni can provide to students, and young alumni, is the mentor role.  Indiana University's School of Medicine's Alumni Association realized this and created a simple, but effective, Mentoring Form to assist in finding the right match between mentor and student.  The form itself is easy to understand and clear in its questions for the alumni to answer. 

Of course, there is the professional and educational background information so a student can locate a possible mentor in a career path they hope to be on one day, but beyond that, there is also a section for personal interests to be highlighted.  This allows the student to find some commonalities, and that will ease the barriers between mentor and student so they can relate to each other in an easier fashion. 

Also, at the bottom of the form is a list of opportunities that the mentor can check off to show interest.  In this way, a student will know if they are open to offering advice on a resume, having a phone conversation, assisting them with an internship, meeting for lunch, etc.  This diminishes the possibility of a misunderstanding developing right at the beginning of the mentoring relationship.

Mentoring accomplishes several goals.  Students realize that the alumni association is more than just an events planning committee, and that alumni are there to help them in their careers.  Who better to shine a glowing beacon of light down the murky path that lies ahead of them than those who have already traveled that road?  For mentors, they will be provided with a sense of satisfaction by the rewarding experience of offering their insight and expertise to a student.

For Indiana University's School of Medicine's Alumni Association, the mentoring program is an added value for their online community.  Connecting alumni with students is one of the most powerful relationships that can exist - both within the online community and in the real world, for the benefits are immense.  It is truly a win-win situation for all involved!   

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 8, 2006 at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

December 06, 2006

University of Washington - Calendar of Events

University of Washington's Alumni Association has developed a comprehensive calendar of events within their online community.  Keeping alumni connected, active, and involved with their alma mater is a task that every alumni association has to deal with.  What UW Alumni Association has created is not simply a calendar, but a tool to generate interest, raise enthusiasm, and strengthen the bond that alumni feel for their school. 

All of this is accomplished by the use of a Calendar of Events?  If done correctly, absolutely!  If you take a look, you'll see how expertly University of Washington's Alumni Association has provided all of the information that alumni may want to know about any of the events going on at their school, sporting events, lectures, etc.  Visitors can pick their view - from a year at a glance, to focusing in on one day, two weeks, or one month time periods.  Each planned event is noted in the calendar, in the correct date, but again along the bottom of the page.  Here is where all of the pertinent and necessary information about any of the events that alumni may be interested in are found.  There are even links to individual departments whose events are listed on the calendar.   

Mr. John Burkhardt, Manager of Online Services for UW Alumni Association, has this to say about their calendar of events within their online community:

"At a large public research university with a tradition of decentralization, a big challenge is pulling together information about the myriad of events and activities that may be of interest to alumni.  We feel providing an easy-to-use, easy-to-read events calendar for alumni is a central part of our mission to connect alumni back to the university."

As well as:

"Our model of building partnerships directly with academic and affinity units on the campuses has proved to be a great foundation for developing a list of the 'best' opportunities for alumni engagement.  We're looking forward to even better event calendaring in the near future.  We'll be taking advantage of recent developments in XML data transfer and calendar publishing to make our events calendar more comprehensive, and at the same time, more selective."

When UW's Alumni Association put together their calendar of events for their online community, they took the time to do it right.  By creating a dedicated area for their alumni to check in on the happening's within their alma mater, and by making it an easy to access, easy to get the right information, and easy to maneuver page, they have virtually ensured a stronger connection between the university and their alumni.

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 6, 2006 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article