Maintaining ties with alumni

Dylan O’Neill speaks to graduates of UCD and DCU to find out how they really feel about their respective alumni offices.

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The Union of Students in Ireland have reported that that there has been a 2% increase of student numbers year on year, which will continue for the next decade. Third level education is constantly heralded as a necessity for not only beginning, but succeeding in your chosen career field. But when we’re handed our degrees, is that the end of the “best years of our lives”? With many third level institutes funding departments to build and maintain relationships with their alumni, is it only the people who donate money to back to the college or university that benefit from this relationship?

 

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For former UCD students, the Alumni Relations department is dedicated to offering services specifically targeted at graduates. Some of these services include a readers card for alumni to gain access to all UCD libraries, as well as a course finder for past students who are considering continuing their studies. On top of that, Alumni Relations regularly host class reunion events as an opportunity to reminisce with old classmates and potentially network with others, who are well established in their respective fields. But do graduates feel the benefit of these services in practise?

O’Neill feels that while ‘gains you access to services such as the library which can be helpful if you’re doing exams for accountancy and don’t have access to a library in your workplace’, as a science graduate she has had ‘no need to contact alumni relations.’”

Recent UCD alumna, Rachel O’Neill, graduated with a B.Sc Neuroscience in 2017. Having only graduated last year, O’Neill feels that while access to services such as the library can be helpful if you’re doing exams for accountancy and don’t have access to a library in your workplace, as a science graduate she has had “no need to contact alumni relations.” However, O’Neill acknowledges that “if I needed them for something related to my career then absolutely” she would work with the alumni relations office in the future.

UCD Alumni relations have a strong presence on campus with it’s reunion events being covered online and with the circulation of their publication UCD Connections, graduates receive regular emails that include the upcoming events and notifications of when the next issue is out.”

UCD Alumni relations have a strong presence on campus with it’s reunion events being covered online and with the circulation of their publication UCD Connections. Graduates also receive regular emails that include the upcoming events and notifications of when the next issue is out. How well-received is this by graduates? O’Neill feels that “they give off the impression” that there should be a strong emphasis placed on maintaining connections between UCD and alumni. “I have a pretty low affinity for UCD as a college which doesn’t incentivise me to maintain relations with them. I’d like to think I have good relationships with many of the people in my course even if I don’t see them as much as I’d like to.”

 

A factor that she believes would benefit the alumni relations to take into account is the importance of being transparent with graduates. “Don’t just send them a generic email about alumni events. Organise the graduates by their course and send them things that they might be interested in. Before they graduate, they should tell students about the services they offer and why they might benefit them. I spent 5 years in UCD and I’m still not entirely sure what the Alumni Relations Office does or how it could benefit me.”

 

Fellow science graduate, Hannah Boylan agrees that the alumni relations are not emphasised for those who have just recently graduated. As it is too soon after graduation to have a reunion event, she suggests “maybe career events or a showcase of what other alumni have done. The few events I have seen that are targeted at alumni just seem to be a way to make money.”

 

Ian Barrett, who graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts,has a different perspective on his dealing with the alumni relations office. Despite graduating 35 years ago, he has never attended a reunion event in UCD, and describes UCD’s attempts on maintaining contact is “not very strong”. Still, Barrett has served on the Alumni Committee in National College of Ireland during the term 2006/2007, and believes that third level institutes who wish to create strong relations with their alumni need to be strategic and target specific alumni closer to their campuses.

 

Listing his own experience of the DCU Business School Alumni Office, he “assists them [DCU Business School Alumni Office] by getting involved in a ‘mock interviewing’ evening for their MBA undergraduate class.” He explains that he completed an MBS in DCU in 2000. He suggests that he was asked to fulfill this role for a number of reasons “1). I am competent to do this. 2). DCU is close to my workplace. 3) My son is a student there. 4). It is a form of networking.”

DCU have an Alumni Council that is comprised of graduated students that volunteer and represent the University’s alumni and organising events. The possibility of ‘night courses’ was a reason Warrillow gave for considering working with the alumni relations office in DCU.”

So how does DCU differ from UCD in terms of relationships with their alumni? Cormac Warrillow, who graduated in November 2017 with a BSc. Actuarial Mathematics, describes having only been made aware of the services and events aimed at alumni through word of mouth. DCU have an Alumni Council that is comprised of graduated students that volunteer and represent the University’s alumni and organising events. The possibility of “night courses” was a reason Warrillow gave for considering working with the alumni relations office in DCU. Overall, informing students at an earlier point in the undergraduate course of what services are made available to alumni once and “an ad campaign would go a long way” according to Warrillow.

 

With the amount of events that the alumni relations hosts, it is not a question of lack of visibility on their part, though it appears they could benefit in attempting to have more effective communication. Younger alumni feel overlooked in the eyes of the respective alumni offices for more established alumni that have a greater ability to donate back to their third level institutes.

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