The Importance of Alumni

Former students show appreciation by giving back to universities.

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Whether public or private, in boom or bust times, universities benefit in numerous ways from their alumni. Those who have earned their degrees and left the hallowed halls of their alma maters continue to contribute to institutions of higher learning across the country – and Oklahoma is no exception.

Much of the alumni contribution takes the form of a financial boost, though attaching an exact dollar figure to it is difficult.

At Oklahoma State University, for example, alumni giving helped push the current fundraising campaign, “Branding Success: The Campaign for OSU,” over its $1 billion goal last year, says Jim Berscheidt, senior associate vice president for marketing and communications. The campaign has been active for more than six years and will continue until Dec. 31, as remaining projects still require funding, he says.

“Tens of thousands of alumni are helping make the transformational campaign a huge success and impacting the lives of current and future students,” Berscheidt says. “Many alumni have created new scholarships for OSU students, supported the expansion of academic programs or helped create new ones, and contributed to improving university facilities through renovation or new construction projects.”

Alumni contribute not only money but time invested in morale-boosting university events.
This becomes most noticeable during the school year, when thousands of OSU alumni return for sporting events, commencement exercises and homecoming festivities, according to Alumni Association Director of Communications Chase Carter. The Alumni Association also works with more than 300 volunteers nationwide to support its 100 regional groups, which last year hosted more than 900 events with more than 25,000 alumni and fans in attendance, says Carter.

But such efforts are by no means limited to the state’s largest universities. Every little bit helps during trying economic times, and morale remains important to any educational institution, including smaller ones.

At Oklahoma City’s Mid-America Christian University, alumni are an important force behind positive growth, says Carol Alsip, associate director of annual campaigns for the college.
“There are several different avenues in which our alumni support us,” Alsip says. “Some [support] financially, some teach for us in the traditional College of Arts and Sciences in our one-night-a-week, on-campus College of Adult and Graduate Studies program, and some even through our online program.”

The process by which colleges reach out to alumni is itself multifaceted. Social media and electronic giving play an increasingly significant role, Carter says.
But regardless of the means by which they accrue, financial contributions will always be vital to a university’s continued success, thus placing a high value on effective outreach to those in a position to give.

“The OSU Foundation encourages alumni giving by inviting them to participate in activities throughout the academic year and talking directly to alumni about how their gifts make a difference in students’ lives,” Berscheidt says.

Smaller universities, meanwhile, look for new ways to reach out to former students. MACU does not currently employ an alumni director, Alsip says.

“But we are researching ideas and ways of further engaging our alumni until we have the capacity to add that position,” she adds.



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