Sep 23

How Alumni Pros Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Web

Two good articles from Michael Stoner’s blog.

The first is a profile of Andy Shaindlin, writer of the Alumni Futures blog, one of the premier voices on the use of electronic communications for alumni engagement.

A key excerpt of the Q & A…

Today, alumni certainly have more access to more networks than they ever did. How has that changed the dynamic for institutions and for alumni relations professionals?

That’s right—the technology behind online connection is no longer something that one nerd in the alumni office experiments with, like it was in the early ‘90s when I was running online courses via listserv. It’s everyone’s job now to utilize these tools and participate in the activity on networks such as Facebook.

But it’s not only about having more networks. Alumni also have more access to all their networks. What’s more, as access to disparate networks becomes centralized, the networks themselves are linked together. This makes the networks simultaneously more powerful and less focused on the alumni population, because diversification tends to increase network value.

So institutions no longer have a monopoly on access to the network and can no longer impose homogeneity on it. The data are being liberated. Instead of going through the alumni association to locate classmates (for example, by buying a printed directory) alumni now just do a quick Google search or look on Facebook or LinkedIn. A fraction of people are findable that way, but that fraction is growing very rapidly. As the networks coalesce and the Internet’s “identity layer” connects separate sites, it will become even easier for alumni to find and communicate with each other, without help from us.

So again, maybe we need to update Bob Reichley’s original question—which is about alumni relations, not about technology —and ask, “What can we offer alumni that is relevant to their needs, and that they can’t get it as easily, or as effectively anywhere else?” Can we solve a problem they have? Can we deliver something unique because of what our institution is like, or what it does?

Read the whole blog post here.

And the other is a profile of Leisha LeCouvie, director of Parent and Affinity Programs at McGill University.

Here’s the intro…

Like many with extensive experience in alumni relations, she was aware of social media and social networks but didn’t know her RSS from her Facebook.All that changed when the Council of Alumni Association Executives (CAAE, an association of leading alumni professionals) made her the 2009 Forman Fellow. These fellowships are awarded to mid-career alumni professionals who are considered to be future leaders in the profession. Forman Fellowships provide travel funds for recipients to visit and conduct research at several CAAE member institutions.

The travel allowed Leisha to visit University of California Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of British Columbia and learn about their social media outreach to alumni. She also surveyed CAAE institutions about their social media activities. This work resulted in a research report, which she presented at CAAE’s meeting this summer.

You can read the whole interview here.

And you can read/download her informative research report “The Use of Social Media for Alumni Relations and University Development” here [PDF].

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