Working with Alumni

Diane Doser and Randy Richardson

At the 2009 workshop on Strengthening Your Geoscience Program, working groups of participants met to address topics of concern. This page is a summary of one working group's discussion.

1) What are same examples of departmental efforts?

  • Building a Facebook site or web pages for alumni
  • Names of missing alumni are published in the department newsletter in order to receive information from other alumni who might know where they are
  • Departments have formed alumni advisory boards. Some meet in person one or two times a year. Others meet by conference call. The boards are extremely helpful in mentoring students, raising funds, program assessment, and panel discussions
  • Appealing to alumni for a specific need (e.g. extended field trip for new grad students
  • Alumni have made presentations in intro classes, as well as more advanced classes, about careers in the geosciences
  • Holding a departmental picnic each spring that includes current students, alumni and emeritus faculty
  • Reunions held at professional meetings for alumni attending the meeting
  • Reunions held in conjunction with professional meetings at specific locations (e.g. Denver, Houston) (both for alumni attending the meeting and for alumni living nearby). In this case it helps to have an alumni living at the location be in charge of organizing the event and contacting alumni in the region (by email/mail and phone) inviting them to come.
  • Multiple day reunions to honor special occasions (new buildings, retirement, special anniversaries) that included field trips and other well structured activities. Alumni were given mementos such as T-shirts.

2) What are benefits and positive outcomes?

  • Feedback from alumni is important for assessment and improvement of curriculum and outside activities.
  • Alumni can serve as mentors and help students find employment.
  • Alumni can recruit new students to the program, especially alumni teaching at the K-12 or community college level
  • Alumni provide financial support to many programs

3) What are challenges, barriers?

  • Development /foundation offices are reluctant to let departments have own fund raising projects so do not want to release the alumni information.
  • Alumni offices do not want to release contact information citing privacy reasons
  • Difficulties in contacting alumni/keeping current information on alumni updated
  • Graduates from BS/BA programs are difficult to track because they can leave the geoscience field.
  • It is difficult to track alumni who do not attend common professional meetings like GSA or AGU. If AGI does develop an alumni survey (see item 4) it would be helpful to know what professional societies alumni from a particular department belong to so that "reunions" can be scheduled at the meetings of these professional societies.

4) What are ideas for making this work better?

  • Use exit surveys to obtain email addresses (especially those with a long live time, like gmail, etc.) of graduating seniors in order to stay in touch
  • Have forms on-line for alumni to update their contact information
  • Try to determine why your development/foundation office has "restrictions" on fund raising or name sharing. Is it to prevent departments from asking particular donors (who may give large sums of money to the foundation) to give small amounts? Or to avoid over contact?
  • There was near unanimous support from the discussion group for having AGI assist with surveying alumni across the country in order to collect basic assessment information (e.g. where alumni are working, what courses prepared them for their careers) and other useful information (e.g. would alumni be willing to mentor students, what professional societies they belong to). It was felt that if AGI develops a survey that each department would then email their alumni and ask them to participate in the survey, ideally as an online link in correspondence from the department. It also might be possible to have professional societies alert their members about the survey (enabling some alumni who have lost contact with their alma maters to provide feedback).
  • Your campus alumni or institutional research offices may already be sending surveys to alumni and may be able to provide you with information from these surveys, or potentially even modify future surveys to meet departmental needs.

5) What resources regarding this topic would you want to see on the website?

  • University of Arizona on-line form for updating alumni information and examples from other institutions
  • AGI alumni survey website (if established)
  • Examples of alumni advisory boards and their activities
  • Pomona College might have information on how they bring several alumni on campus for several days to provide career counseling, etc.
  • Examples of departmental and alumni newsletters
  • Examples of alumni Facebook sites and alumni web pages

6) What is your plan for the future?

  • Having a structured alumni function
  • Try to work with institutional advancement office and alumni affairs office to get more information on alumni and work with them on ideas on how to better connect with alumni
  • Have students build an alumni Facebook site with recent graduates highlighted
  • Start a department newsletter
  • Add a form to the departmental website to allow alumni to update their contact information