PHOTO CREDIT: TANGLIN TRUST SCHOOL
How does an international school that sends 99 percent of its graduates off to universities abroad get alumni to come back?
For Tanglin Trust School in Singapore, the answer is providing alumni an opportunity to gain work experience. During summer vacations from university, recent graduates interested in educational careers spend three to eight weeks in Tanglin's senior school supporting teachers, assisting students, and offering insights about the college experience.
Alumni director Nellie Rogers got the idea when she overheard two alumni inquiring about working in the classrooms of two Tanglin teachers. The school's foundation agreed to fund paid internships, which were advertised in newsletters emailed to students, parents, and alumni. "We had a lot of interest from alumni who want to teach as a profession," Rogers says.
For the 2016–17 school year, Tanglin hired eight interns. After a half-day session covering dress code, school rules, and child-protection training, interns provide classroom support to science, foreign language, and other teachers. The intern class doubled to 16 for 2017–18.
Interns help create lessons and presentations as well as mentor university-bound students, reviewing college applications, helping them study for entrance exams, and giving insight into daily university life. Students like speaking to "someone closer to their age who has gone through the university experience," one intern says. "Students have lots of questions they may be afraid to ask about university and living away from home, so it's good that they have interns to give honest answers."
The internship program has boosted alumni engagement. "It keeps the alumni in greater contact: opening newsletters, reading emails, following our department on social media to know that we are giving them opportunities after they graduate," Rogers says.
After an earthquake devastated Mexico City and southern Mexico in early September 2017, local universities and alumni groups stepped in to help:
Universidad Iberoamericana, which does not have residence halls, used its buildings as emergency housing for displaced students. Through email and social media, the institution also organized housing options with other students, alumni, and faculty, who offered spare rooms or apartments.
Universidad La Salle created the website La Salle Contigo—La Salle With You—to solicit food donations and recruit 2,500 students, faculty, alumni, and staff for search-and-rescue squadrons. A specialized group of architecture and civil engineering students, faculty, and alumni inspected 600 damaged buildings, and alumni and faculty held 300 psychological sessions and 50 legal consultations with La Salle community members and area residents affected by the quake.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Mexican Alumni Network is holding weekly meetings with organizations such as the University of Mexico and Techo, an international nonprofit focused on fighting poverty in Latin America, to develop long-term housing that can withstand high-magnitude earthquakes in towns such as La Nopalera in Morelos, where the September temblor damaged up to 80 percent of buildings. EL
PHOTO CREDIT: UNIVERSIDAD LA SALLE
When Kelvin Sampson, head men's basketball coach at the University of Houston, called on fellow coaches to send shirts and shoes to help Hurricane Harvey victims, he was expecting to get a few boxes from other Texas institutions. Instead, he received 8,000 boxes from 2,000 K–12 schools and colleges across the United States.
"UPS, FedEx, and campus mail were delivering up to 500 or 600 boxes a day," Sampson says. "It was almost overwhelming."
Sampson had been watching the local news during Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane that hit Texas in August causing nearly $200 billion in damage. "I was seeing heartbreaking stories of families being rescued by boats having nothing but the clothes on their backs. I thought, ‘There's got to be something I can do,'" Sampson says.
Meanwhile, he was getting texts and calls from friends around the country checking on him and the team. He realized that since most university sports programs have extra clothing and gear, they could help. Sampson sent a Twitter request to his friends in college basketball, urging them to ask each of their institutions to donate 20 shirts and 10 pairs of shoes. His tweet went viral. By the end of October, Sampson, with the help of the University of Houston's Athletic Department, had collected roughly $6 million worth of men's, women's, and children's athletic gear.
Many UH faculty and staff as well as others in the community helped sort the donations sent in throughout September and October. Some local businesses even gave their employees the day off so they could assist.
The goods went to churches and federal agencies in Houston and Harvey-affected areas in east Texas. People who received gear from the clothing drive sent in photos, including shots of kids holding up their new shoes and families wearing college basketball shirts.
"The responses melt your heart," Sampson says. EL
From the Penn State student with a penchant for dressing squirrels in elaborate costumes to the annual Black Squirrel Festival at Ohio's Kent State University, colleges have long had a soft spot for squirrels. Observed annually on Jan. 21, Squirrel Appreciation Day—started by North Carolina wildlife rehabilitator Christy Hargrove in 2001—has given universities a dedicated reason to pay tribute to their campus rodent of choice.
Why celebrate? "We have a lot of squirrels, and students either love them or hate them," says Todd Sanders, director of digital communications and social media at the University of Florida. Squirrel Appreciation Day, he says, "remains relevant, and our on-campus audience really enjoys it."
Last year, the University of North Texas used the day to remember Lucky, its famous albino squirrel that was a symbol of school spirit until it was killed by a car in late 2016. To see how campuses have fun with Squirrel Appreciation Day, be sure to follow #SquirrelAppreciationDay on Twitter and Instagram in January. EL
PHOTO CREDITS: UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA; KENT STATE; UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN/ANDREW HORNE; UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS
The envelopes are empty but extremely valuable.
In February 2018, for the second year, the Rutgers University Foundation will deliver packages of branded red envelopes to alumni and donors in China to use in a popular tradition.
To celebrate Chinese New Year, older generations and married couples in China pass out red envelopes decorated with gold-colored Chinese characters that represent good fortune. They stuff the envelopes with money and give them to their children and unmarried people to bless them with a prosperous start to the lunar year, which typically occurs in late January or early February.
At the suggestion of university foundation intern Yingxing Huang, Rutgers University-Newark chancellor Nancy Cantor delivered Rutgers-branded envelopes to alumni and donors during her January 2017 trip to China. The idea came to Huang, then a graduate student at the New Jersey institution, during a phone call with her mother, who mentioned buying red envelopes as part of her Lunar New Year festival planning.
The advancement team jumped at the proposal. "It was honoring the local tradition with a Rutgers twist," says Irene O'Brien, vice chancellor for advancement at Rutgers University-Newark. Huang consulted with the designer to make sure the envelope illustrations featured a gold Chinese knot with Rutgers' logo woven into the design.
In China, Cantor and O'Brien met with alumni and parents of current students and handed out the envelopes bundled into packages of eight, a number representing good luck in Chinese culture. Back in New Jersey, the Rutgers Chinese Students and Scholars Association passed out the remaining envelopes to students and faculty as part of its own festival.
Everyone loved the envelopes. Alumni and students sent photos of themselves handing out envelopes filled with cash or using them to decorate their offices.
Thanks to a student idea, Rutgers tapped into a cultural tradition that resonates with Chinese alumni and donors while putting its brand in front of an extended audience. "Integrating student voices helps influence advancement work directly," O'Brien says. EL
PHOTO CREDIT: RUIHONG LIN