Last summer, Nyenrode Business Universiteit's latest graduates left the university to embark upon their new careers, but it was not goodbye. Though these students may no longer need the university, it has become increasingly clear to us that we will always need them; as such, we will endeavour to be involved in their lives for as long as possible.
The reason? Though a university's value can be judged on its position in league tables and rankings, from its reputation and its faculty expertise, there is no better example of its worth than its alumni.
With the cost of degree programs rising, and the job market becoming increasingly challenging, the expectations students have about what their university should offer them are also increasing. It's no longer enough to provide quality programs; students want proof that their education will help them to secure the job they want. Having an alumni base that reflects these values is, of course, important, but even more so is having alumni that are willing to share their experiences and expertise with students.
Every university in the world is sitting on a gold mine of former students whose successes stand as the best testament to what can be achieved from their education. Despite this, not all universities recognise the inherent value their alumni hold, and as such do not go about utilizing this resource in the best way.
Typically, universities engage with their alumni through semi-regular newsletters, surveys and by organising reunions when milestone years are reached. Though these methods do keep universities connected ― albeit loosely ― to former students, it does little to encourage engagement between the two. Old classmates may reconnect, but for the university, often all these events offer is a chance to make note of where their alumni are now.
Using an alumni network simply as a statistic of the institution's success or as a financial resource is a short-sighted approach. Universities should instead make use of their alumni's expertise, not only for their own benefit, but for their current students who could stand to learn from those who have been there before them.
But how can universities do this? The key is to ensure that your alumni network is an active community by showing a genuine interest in them, and creating ways for them to give back to their alma maters other than financially.
One way of doing this is to encourage communication between current and former students.