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Building a Global Alumni Community: 4 Best Practices

To build ties with alumni, international schools have to go the distance—literally.

Today's more than 9,600 international K-12 schools worldwide serve 5 million students, many of whom are from families in the country on business or as part of the diplomatic corps. With often transient students and alumni spread across the globe, international schools work to capture students' hearts and maintain those ties over years and, in many cases, continents.

Here are four best practices from these institutions to build global connections.

Tap into existing alumni networks. Often, clusters of alumni end up living in the same city and finding each other without help from their alma mater. But that doesn't mean the school can't be part of the experience. Many alumni of the American International School of Budapest, Hungary, end up in other major cities in Europe, says Magdalen Grey, the school's advancement director. "There's a lot going on unofficially," Grey says, such as a weekly alumni gathering in The Netherlands. This year, the school will focus on enabling class and location reps to "harness" the energy of those informal groups.

Ask alumni who live your mission to speak to students. The UWC South East Asia in Singapore, part of the global United World College system, has a mission "to make education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future." Dave Shepherd, director of college advancement at UWC-SEA, engages prominent alumni to return to campus to address students. He's specifically looking for "people who are doing something really meaningful besides being successful in business," he says.

Consistently emphasize community in your messaging. Tim Fuderich, director of alumni and constituent relations at the Washington International School in Washington, D.C., says it's imperative to weave together the concepts of "broad and lifelong engagement, lifelong learning, and strong support for volunteer initiatives." That plays out in event planning and outreach.

"Any talking points, any collateral, should reinforce the message of giving back and what it means to be part of this community," he says.

Appeal to the next generation. The Carol Morgan School in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, has created a "Sharky Club," says Vielka Morales, community relations director, in honor of the school's mascot. Each time an alumna or alumnus has a child, her office sends a shark plush toy with a note of welcome to the community. "We are developing special activities for this group," Vielka says, "and encourage their parents to consider their alma mater when their children are ready for school."

Explore more ideas for engaging alumni in "School Ties" in the January/February issue of Currents.

This article is from the January 2019 BriefCASE issue.

Member Profile: Charles Diab

Charles Diab is the executive director, advancement and alumni affairs at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Charles Diab is the executive director, advancement and alumni affairs at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

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