EM, Meet Advancement. Advancement, EM.

I’m sitting here without electric. I’m bored, getting kind of cold, watching the candles dwindle as the flames start to burn out (mostly because I’ve been burning candles all day...it’s what we do here), and enjoying the sound of the wind and rain. To be honest, I should probably be scared. I don’t know.  I have a glass of sauvignon blanc on my left and a glass of cabernet sauvignon on the right. I’m taking on this frankenstorm in the classiest manner I know how. I’m also typing this post with my thumbs and I’m not going to lie, I’m amazed at my dexterity. I’m pretty fast. Let’s hope that autocorrect doesn’t place any ridiculous words in this post.

I just read this article from our friends over at Noel-Levitz, and I realize more than ever the importance of having a connected university. I was lucky to have the opportunity to work in enrollment management, student affairs, academic affairs, and university advancement as an undergrad and graduate student at Salisbury University. I know that I drove my now wife crazy with all of my jobs, but I wouldn’t have the knowledge of how institutions work without those experiences.  She’s awesome.

It’s interesting that I would write this post tonight. As a Marylander, I’ve [obviously] been affected by Sandy. And yet, as I’m worrying about my family, my coworkers and my life here in DC (ish), I’m also worrying about my school. Salisbury sits 30 miles away from Ocean City, Maryland, practically underwater.

I’m thinking about the residence halls, the buildings, the city and the students. I’m thinking about the local barsI used to head to with throngs of friends for Thirsty Thursdays or weekend nights as I see pictures on Facebook of those establishments underwater. I remember mud sliding in the quad…running and jumping head first across the giant puddle, formed by a would-be-snow-storm that JUST wasn’t cold enough, ultimately ending on the other side, being amazed at how this was possible. I’m thinking about my freshman experience, especially as a good friend and cluster mate left me a voicemail yesterday that I’ve yet to return (but WILL very soon). I remember sitting on the beach and watching waves with friends as crazy storms rolled in. I’m smiling, thinking about taking Meggie on our first date as freshmen, just four months into our college years…driving to the beach to see the Christmas lights.

As I look down, I notice that I’m wearing Salisbury sweatpants and an SU t-shirt. I look at the collages of pictures on the wall and see my friends smiling back. I look at the blanket on my floor. Salisbury. The photo album on the shelf. Salisbury. My engagement pictures. Salisbury. And let’s not get ahead of ourselves, no, my apartment is not a shrine to SU. My wife is a phenomenal decorator. Really phenomenal.

When I go to college fairs as an alumni volunteer, I see firsthand the shocked faces of students and parents when I say that I don’t work for SU. I’m there, volunteering on a Saturday morning or Tuesday after work because I love my institution. I’m able to provide an insight to my school that these students may not otherwise see. I can tell these stories. I can smile and laugh and be genuine. And, that’s what sells an institution. I can pull from my cross-campus experiences (look for this term in a later post) to answer student questions, paired of course with the EXCELLENT alumni admissions training offered by my alma mater. I can mention my friends who are successful teachers in the state and those who went on, like me, to pursue their master’s. I can talk about my friends working for non-profits, the government, or starting their own businesses after winning competitions put on by Salisbury. I can offer that level of credibility. I can talk directly about job placement. I can speak both to and from experience.

I don’t want to step on Kristen Rothfeld’s excellent past posts on utilizing alumni in EM, I just want to offer my vantage point.

And now I’m thinking about giving. At 25, I’m pretty much just beginning my professional career; and, while I’m in a great place, it’s not one that offers me the opportunity to give to my school on the level that I desire. So I give my time at college fairs, I give my knowledge when it comes to social media and I give my stories to anyone who will listen.

How do you give back?

The Transition - First Generation College Students

Hello Everyone. Today was our final FirstGen meeting of the Spring semester here at the University of St. Thomas. Some of our students are about to walk across that graduation stage decked out in their well-deserved cap and gown attire. College Graduates! They've beat the odds. Their journey of becoming a college graduate is really coming true and I couldn't be more proud of them. Now's the time to make sure that you are reminding your first generation college students of this important transition and all that comes along with it:

  • Finals Encouragement - I've already had to remind at least two of my graduating seniors that now is not the time to slack off and lose sight of why you are in college. Take time to check in with them these last few weeks and provide them that much needed pep talk to finish your college career stronger than you started.
  • Keep Fear In Perspective - Feelings of fear is very visibile during this time for some and it could possibly stem from "What is my life going to be like after college" and "Am I really ready to enter the real world?" Be that sense of reassurance for them that they've accomplished history for themselves and their family and you know they will continue to succeed. Remind them about still connecting with Career Services even if they've landed a job already. Career Services can help to talk about preparing for your new job, what to wear in the new work place, and how can my university help me after graduation.
  • The Family Role - Some of your students have a good balance with graduating and including their family in this amazing celebration. However, some may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to include their family in preparing for this new journey. Teach students to continue to keep that important line of communication open with the family so they can discuss what's important about this time. Does the student really want a HUGE party the night of graduation or does she prefer a nice quiet dinner at home? This is not only a big time for the student, but their families have probably invested in the college journey too.

All in all, this is an exciting time for so many on our college campuses and we as professional staff have a chance to help in that experience. Please share your student's graduation stories (or even yours if your graduating...congrats!) here and also on Twitter. Don't forget to use the hashtag #EMchat as I would love to retweet and join in on your celebration! I certainly hope this helps you and the students you are trying to support!

Alumni & Retention Initiatives

Part III of the Alumni & Recruitment Efforts series is taking a slight turn to open up other ways to engage alumni in the campus community long after they have graduated.  One way of continually engaging alumni is through retention initiatives.

One initiative that engages alumni in the retention efforts is the opportunity for alumni to become involved in a conference designed to assist students in the transition from student to professional.  This opportunity was implemented at my undergraduate institution and was very popular.  Not only was it popular with the alumni who gave presentations, it was a success with the students as well.  This gives alumni the chance to present on their experiences and offer tips and advice to students who are preparing to graduate and enter the working world.  Another initiative that allows alumni to engage with students is the program “Dinner with a Dozen Grizzlies.”  This event gathers current students, staff, and alumni at a volunteer’s home to enjoy a potluck meal, network with new people, and meet people from different areas of campus.  This gives current students another avenue to become involved on campus and get to know faculty and staff on a different level.  These initiatives are just a few examples of how alumni can remain involved with the institution’s community long after graduation.

For many programs designed to engage alumni in recruitment and retention activities, support is only offered from one department.  At my undergraduate institution, the program was started off a two year grant that applied for by the admissions and alumni offices.  The coordinator was involved in events and meetings with both departments.  Having buy-in from both departments allowed for the program to grow and with the hard work by the coordinator and student assistants, the program became permanently funded in the summer of 2010.

I hope my posts regarding alumni & recruitment efforts have sparked some ideas for others.  Please join #EMchat on Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 9:00 p.m. EST/8:00 p.m. CST as we discuss alumni in the recruitment process.   Until next time…

Alumni & Recruitment Efforts

Hello EMchat friends!  I am thrilled to be writing the first of a three part series for the EMchat blog about the use of alumni in recruitment activities through the admissions process.  This allows alumni to represent the university, share stories of their time as a student on campus, as well as connect with their local community at high school college nights and on-campus events.  You may be wondering how does a young professional have a passion for the work of alumni.  Allow me to back track for a moment…

During my time as a student, I worked a variety of positions within Orientation and Admissions.  I served as a tour guide for one year and I had spoken with my supervisor about becoming more involved in the office.  The first position she gave me involved working with the recruitment team.  The second position involved working with the coordinator of the alumni admissions ambassador program.  The program was in year two and was consistently expanding.  I had the pleasure of working with alumni as well as representing the institution as an alumna at various recruitment events.  The opportunity to share my stories as well as get prospective students excited about becoming a part of the community was rewarding.

In the posts to follow, I am going to discuss the opportunities to get alumni involved in the recruitment process.  Due to creativity on behalf of past and current coordinators and student employees, outreach in the community has ranged from elementary school students to adult learners.  The chance for alumni to volunteer on behalf of their institution is greatly appreciated by those who choose to be involved.  This type of program allows for the individuals to share their love for their university with the greater community all while working to promote the institution and the impact felt around the region.

I am looking forward to continuing this conversation in the upcoming weeks.  I look forward to hearing what you have to say as well and be able to continue this discussion beyond this blog.  Please feel free to connect with me on Twitter (@kmrothfeld) to continue the conversation and networking.