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Maintaining Connections with Your Alma Mater: What Alumni Associations Do

published April 13, 2023

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Alumni associations are groups of individuals who have graduated from a particular educational institution. They are formed to support the alma mater or university by keeping ties strong and helping its students and graduates. Alumni associations are dedicated to preserving the legacy of the university through activities and events that promote camaraderie and unity amongst current and past students.

Alumni associations create a sense of community amongst students who have shared the same educational experiences. They also help to raise awareness of the alma mater and its achievements. A key role of alumni associations is to provide mentorship and career advice to current students and alumni. These associations are invaluable resources enabling individuals to network and create professional relationships.

Alumni associations organize social and professional events throughout the year, including alumni reunions and career fairs. These events are an effective way of maintaining strong links with alumni and giving them an opportunity to reconnect with each other. Through these events, current and past students can learn more about the university, network, and strengthen their sense of pride and loyalty.

Alumni associations also provide financial support to the alma mater through fundraising activities. Alumni donations are used to fund scholarships and improve the university's facilities. By participating in these fundraisers, alumni can make a real difference to their alma mater.

As a result, alumni associations play a crucial role in bringing together current and past students and fostering long-term relationships with their alma mater. They provide valuable opportunities for alumni to stay connected and support the educational institution through social events, career advice, and financial donations. By being an active part of the alumni association a graduate can remain connected to their alma mater for many years to come.

What Is an Alumni Association?

An alumni association is an organization of former students, graduates, and faculty of a school, college, or university. Founded in the early 1800s, alumni associations aim to build lifelong relationships between alumni and their respective institutions. Many organizations offer career services, job search assistance, academic programs, and other professional development activities to contribute to the continued success of alumni.

History of Alumni Associations

The first alumni organizations, known as fraternities, were founded in the United States in the 1820s. These groups sought to maintain relationships between graduates and their alma mater. During the early twentieth century, the focus of fraternities shifted from fellowship to professional networking and career advancement. As alumni associations spread to other countries, they began to offer a host of additional services, such as alumni publications, discounts on travel, and reunion organizations.

Benefits of Alumni Associations

Alumni associations provide numerous benefits to members and their alma mater. They create an environment of collaboration and shared learning to promote the success of their members. Furthermore, alumni associations connect former students with current students, allowing them to offer valuable advice, guidance, and mentorship. Additionally, alumni members are often able to receive discounts on goods and services, as well as connect with other alumni members for professional networking opportunities.

Services Offered by Alumni Associations

Many organizations offer job search assistance, alumni publications, access to career resources, discounts on travel and services, and a variety of other activities. Alumni associations can also provide networking events, such as alumni mixers and workshops, to help alumni stay connected with their alma mater and each other. Other services offered may include travel arrangements, access to alumni chapters in different cities, discounts on goods and services, and special events like reunions and holiday parties.

How to Join an Alumni Association

Joining an alumni association is easy and typically involves completing an online application. Some organizations may also require proof of graduation. After submitting the application, you will be sent a membership card and may be able to access discounts on goods and services, such as rental cars and hotels. Additionally, members may be entitled to additional services and resources, such as career advice and job search assistance.

<<Andrew Sinclair is one of them. Mr. Sinclair graduated from Boston University School of Law last May, and although he has not yet participated in any alumni events, he said he plans to be involved with his school's alumni association.

''I'm definitely interested in my school's alumni association as a way to keep in touch with classmates and perhaps to find business and employment opportunities,'' said Mr. Sinclair. ''I also plan to participate in other activities at my school, such as the mentor program.''

Law school alumni sponsor a wide range of events such as mixers, reunions, lectures, fundraisers, seminars, and other functions providing alumni opportunities to stay in touch and reconnect.

''The UMKC Law Alumni Association serves as a catalyst to maintain the ties between graduates and their peers and their school of law,'' said Paula Yehle, Advancement Manager, Executive Director, Law Foundation, University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law. ''The Law Alumni Association annually recognizes and promotes the achievements of both students and alumni and provides social opportunities for alumni to connect with each other.''

Mary Brown moved out of state after graduating from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1997. But before she left, she made sure to attend one of her alumni association events. ''It was a new lawyer's mixer, and I had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. I only wish I lived closer to keep some of those connections.''

Though Ms. Brown now lives too far away to participate in her school's events, she said she does value the information she receives about her old classmates. Much of that information comes in the form of magazines published by law school alumni associations, which update alum about fellow graduates, faculty, and events..

''Our magazine, like other school magazines, is really our way of communicating the scholarly activities occurring at the school,'' said Jeffrey A. Ulmer, who serves as Assistant Dean, Development and Alumni Relations, at Vanderbilt University Law School. ''It also provides news about our alumni, and it's really our primary marketing piece. It goes to alumni as well as other academic administrators and faculty at our peer institutions.''

However, apart from the occasional networking opportunity and chance to meet old classmates, not everyone is interested in their alumni association. Nadia Keilani, a 1997 graduate of the University of San Diego School of Law, said she is not at all involved with her alumni. ''I'm not really interested in maintaining contact with the association. The friends I made in law school are still my friends, and except for those that are in private practice and need to drum up business, none are involved in the alumni association.''

Still, for others, remaining in touch with their schools has pushed them to become active members of their school's alumni associations. These alumni view it as a way of giving back to their school and to keep their law school experience alive.

Stuart Butzier, '89, is the current president of the University of New Mexico School of Law Alumni Association. He serves on an alumni board that currently numbers 30 members. ''I think those of us who serve on the alumni association are motivated by positive experiences each of us had in law school and by the sense of pride and commitment to 'give back' to the institution that helped us to achieve professionally.''

Cerianne L. Mullins, '95, a past president of the UNM School of Law Alumni Association, said she remains a board member as a way to stay in touch with her law school.

''Serving on the board not only brings me back to campus every month for board meetings, but has allowed me to meet people currently working at or attending UNM Law School, to connect with other graduates of UNM Law School, and to stay up-to-date on issues pertinent to the law school,'' she said.

UNM's three annual alumni events show that alumni activities can stimulate the mind, raise money, and offer ways to have fun while networking. The association sponsors an annual distinguished service award dinner in the fall to honor three outstanding members of the law school community and legal profession. The 2004 dinner, which also served as a fundraiser, drew 500 attendees. The other two events include a high-profile lecture series sponsored by the law school and other sponsoring organizations, as well as an annual golf tournament at one of Albuquerque's many golf courses.

Providing mentoring to incoming law students is also a major service several law school alumni associations provide, among others.

''We have implemented and are continuing to sponsor a mentoring program between Loyola students and alumni. There were over 100 students in the program for the 2003-2004 school year alone,'' said Michael J. Conway, '95, president of the board of governors for the Loyola Law School Alumni Association, which boasts more than 12,000 members.

Mr. Conway said the alumni association plans a number of events, such as the annual Grand Reunion, which sold 652 tickets last year. They also hold two or three networking events per month throughout the year. They sponsor good-cause events like the Young Lawyers Program and Bob Cooney Golf Tournament, which benefits the Cancer Legal Resource Center located on the Loyola Law School campus.

''We are continuing to work with the Career Services Department to help alumni find their first jobs or transition their practices. One of our newest projects is spearheading a program at Loyola involving Pro Bono Adoption Day that brings together Loyola students and alumni to help finalize adoptions,'' said Mr. Conway.

Though alumni events often occur near the school's campus, many alumni associations work toward holding events nationwide as a way to increase networking opportunities and maintain strong ties with their far-flung alums.

''We hold alumni receptions across New Mexico and in other states where we have alums,'' said Herb Wright, Director of Development & Alumni Affairs at the University of New Mexico School of Law. ''These receptions are attended by faculty, alums, and students. The students use these events as a way to network with those alums who reside in a city or state where they are interested in working.''

Bruce Toth graduated from Stanford University Law School in 1980 and is currently the chair of the Stanford Law Society of Chicago, which holds three events each year. Two are professional events that include hosting a reception for Stanford Law Dean Larry Kramer and the third is focused on socializing. The society also assists in the recruiting of new students and provides resources for current students.

Mr. Toth said that around 15 years or so after graduation, many graduates take it upon themselves to reconnect with the law school experience. ''It may be nothing more than an irritating call to solicit money for the school or an invitation to hear a law school professor that is in town to speak on a current topic. Regardless, it allows graduates to start thinking about how much they miss the law school experience,'' said Mr. Toth. ''For those graduates looking to reconnect with the law school it is a ready resource that helps that effort.''

published April 13, 2023

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