Students, past and present, are what any university should be all about. Faculty and staff are vital as well, but students are unique in that they will forever fill a role—whether they are current students or long graduated. It would be easy to lose track of most graduates after they embark on their various careers, but doing so would be a huge mistake on any university’s part.
Why? They create the university’s reputation, which relies in large part on how successful graduates are in the real world. This process is self-feeding as well. If a school becomes well known for producing graduates that are intelligent, innovative, and effective in their fields, then its reputation will grow. New graduates will have better job prospects because they went to a well-known school, and the process will continue.
Alumni also help sustain the university through donations and volunteerism. It costs a lot of money to keep a university on its feet, and a big chunk of that comes from alumni donations. Sometimes, large donations allow universities to provide students with newer technology, better facilities, and a nicer campus—which in turn keeps universities competitive and appealing.
A key factor in college and university rankings is the amount of alumni participation universities have. This isn’t surprising, considering an active alumni base generally indicates that past graduates feel like they had a quality educational experience. Attending a school with very active alumni also often encourages current students to remain involved and active after graduation, once more perpetuating a good cycle.
To encourage alumni participation, universities often honor successful alumni, such as Columbia College’s annual John Jay Awards, which honor accomplished alumni for distinguished professional achievement. Past honorees include Alex Navab, Michael Oren, Dede Gardner, and Ben Horowitz. Like other universities, Columbia often honors alumni from a variety of professions. For example, Alex Navab is a financial guru for KKR and Dede Gardner is an accomplished movie producer.
Keeping in close contact with, and continuing to recognize alumni for their excellence is one of the most surefire ways for universities to both cultivate their community and continue to receive monetary support from alumni.
Feature Image: University of Denver via Flickr