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Resolve to Go Global
Resolve to Go Global

Engage alumni beyond your borders in the new year

By Kristin Simonetti


International alumni relations: It headlined the agenda of the Association of Alumni Secretaries' first meeting a century ago, but alumni relations professionals still struggle to serve graduates abroad in meaningful ways. Gretchen Dobson, author of Being Global: Making the Case for International Alumni Relations, encourages leaders to start a new year—and a new century of alumni relations—with these five steps:

1. Partner with your senior international officer. The SIO works with deans and faculty to implement your institution's international academic and research agenda. He or she can help engage international alumni in mentoring, admissions, and other volunteer roles to advance the institution's goals beyond the home country. If you're unsure who the SIO is on your campus, contact your study abroad or international programs office.

2. Identify international alumni and other friends abroad. Who qualifies as an international graduate of your institution? Are international students who studied English in a bridge program tracked in a database? What about international postdoctoral students and faculty members who spent time on your campus before returning home? Few institutions can answer these seemingly simple questions. Before you can enhance engagement programs, ensure the information you have about your alumni abroad is comprehensive and up-to-date.

3. Make the case for overseas alumni officers. Cross-train alumni officers to support other institutional goals, including admissions and fundraising. Alumni relations staffers who travel to other countries can meet high school guidance counselors and prospective students while engaging graduates and assessing potential sources of wealth within their professional and social circles.

4. Don't fear fees. Complimentary receptions—especially for new international alumni chapters—are important events when you are cultivating graduates for volunteer roles and future gifts. But don't assume those graduates wouldn't be interested in travel-learning programs, weekend symposia, or executive career coaching sessions that might require a participation fee. Get to know your markets, then identify the services, events, and cost thresholds for international alumni.

5. Trade Facebook for face time. Engaging international alumni requires navigating many cultures, and tone can get muddled in an email. Face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice, communication should be as important to your international outreach as email, text messages, or social media. When staff members travel to conferences, have them meet with alumni or attend alumni events in the cities they visit.

About the Author Kristin Simonetti

Kristin Simonetti is a former senior editor for CURRENTS.




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