Opinion

Alumni engaging, attracting students

Alumni have been getting more involved in the university than in past years.

melanierehfussLike many students at Temple — nearly 35 percent of the 2015 freshman class, to be exact — I am a first-generation college student. So when I first learned my aunt, whom I greatly admire for traveling the world and showing off her acting chops on Broadway, went to Temple, I was intrigued.

Later, I found out that my favorite high school English teacher was an alum, too.

People I respected went to Temple. People doing amazing things went to Temple. So I wanted to go to Temple.

“Our alums can be ambassadors, as students are looking up and saying, ‘OK, well that’s someone I admire and they went to Temple,’” said Vice President of Alumni Relations Ken Lawrence. “And [it’s important] for the students to have someone they can talk to about the college, someone who actually went there.”

Alumni are clearly essential in attracting incoming students, and luckily the alumni network at Temple is becoming increasingly active.

Alumni scholarship donations reached $15.6 million in 2016, which is more than double from the $7.6 million donated in 2015. Those funds will be essential in maintaining the university’s commitment to affordability, especially as the university’s popularity continues to grow.

Temple alumni haven’t always been this active in the university though or quite so willing to make donations.

Last April, university CFO and Treasurer Ken Kaiser told The Temple News the university’s commuter culture has impacted past alumni involvement.

“You commute, you graduate, you don’t hear from Temple for 15 years and you kind of lose touch,” Kaiser said. “It’s almost like a lost generation. And there’s people that have graduated that are billionaires that we probably haven’t been able to connect back with.”

Lawrence said even among alumni who graduated more recently, contact is sometimes lost because a portion of students don’t provide the university their contact information following graduation.

quotation markI’m glad the university has been making an increased effort to connect with students once they leave Main Campus.quotation mark 2

The Temple University Alumni Association, which was formed in 1927, has more than 319,000 alumni. Since some alumni don’t leave contact information, this number is somewhat inflated. Only about half of that number are actually active reachable members, Lawrence said.

Homecoming, which will begin next week, is a now-weeklong event that has the potential to draw out more alumni.  Lawrence said there was a 43 percent increase in alumni attendance at homecoming between 2014 and 2015.

And the prospect of a possible on-campus football stadium could serve as another means of attracting alumni back to Main Campus more regularly for games and bolstering school pride.

“I think, when our alumni come back to campus and see the great changes that have taken place, it just helps get them more excited and more engaged with the university,” Lawrence said.

It’s clear that recently graduated alumni are staying connected to the university already. First time participants made up 62 percent of the attendees at alumni events throughout the past year.

The effort to engage students and young alumni is relatively new, however, having been implemented only a year ago.

“After convocation, the post-convocation barbeque for the freshman class was sponsored by the Temple University Alumni Association,” Lawrence said. “So even before classes start, we want students thinking, ‘OK, at some point, four years from now, I’m gonna be an alum.’”

I’m glad the university has been making an increased effort to connect with students once they leave Main Campus. It’s likely future alumni will attract the next generation of college students to consider Temple, just like past alumni did for me.

  melanie.leigh.rehfuss@temple.edu

@melanierehfuss

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