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North Hills Monthly

College Alumni Associations Benefit Schools, Former and Current Students

Dec 30, 2015 11:04AM ● By Erica Cebzanov

As part of the GGC Cares event, Grove City College alumni volunteered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

College alumni associations are discovering new ways to remain relevant as social media makes it easier for former students to stay connected.

Aside from homecoming reunions, alumni directors strive to offer events year-round. For instance, La Roche College hosted an alumni reception in conjunction with its Festival of Lights. Likewise, Alumni Relations Director Kraig R. Smith encourages attendance at the Black & White Ball during Thiel College’s Founders’ Day weekend. Cultural performances, golf outings, happy hours, historical tours and Kennywood trips serve as additional ways for local alumni to socialize.

Graduates need not reside near campus to benefit from alumni associations. “We started our alumni travel program several years ago; we are now up to four trips a year,” said Melissa MacLeod, Grove City College’s (GCC) senior director of alumni and college relations. “The trips bridge the connection between alums living in California to Pennsylvania to Florida.”

La Roche booked a 2016 Bahamas cruise for its inaugural excursion, and in honor of Thiel’s sesquicentennial, the school will launch its travel program with an Ireland trip in which the school’s touring choir will entertain alumni.

Alumni chapters in major U.S. cities unite those living outside western Pennsylvania. For example, Grove City’s graduates in 43 countries may access audio streams of lectures and musical performances.

Volunteer opportunities provide another bonding opportunity. “We’ll have alumni call us to say that organizations are having volunteer days, and I work closely with the alumni board to find volunteers for those events,” said Smith, who also promotes Thiel’s Spring Into Action Day, an Earth Week event for alumni and students to beautify the college’s Greenville, PA, home. During the Thiel Walk-a-thon, Phi Theta Phi alumni partner with current fraternity members in a trek from Greenville to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to benefit the Free Care Fund.

“In Pittsburgh, as part of our GCC Cares event, we volunteered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and World Vision. In Philadelphia, our alumni volunteered at a thrift store and in Cleveland, they volunteered at a youth home for children with disabilities,” said MacLeod. “My hope is that down the road, we’ll have alums all over the country serving together.”

While alumni directories are common, La Roche maintains an alumni-owned business directory. “It is an opportunity for alumni to support each other; the database has everything from accountants to attorneys to dog trainers to designers,” said Gina Miller, La Roche’s alumni relations director.

Current students benefit from alumni returning to campus for networking receptions, lectures, mock interviews and job fairs. “Without the La Roche alumni association, I wouldn’t have gotten my WPXI internship,” said Rita Vinski, a journalism and professional writing major. Producer and La Roche alumna Maureen O’Connor planned on hiring one intern to assist with the WPXI holiday parade, but with the association’s guidance, she hired Paige White, a 2015 marketing and management graduate, as well.

“I recently spoke at the alumni association’s President’s Circle Dinner about studying abroad. The speeches reassured one benefactor that her money was going toward a good cause. She was moved by the presentations and wrote about them on LinkedIn,” said White, who will attend graduate school in Rome.

Furthermore, alumni associations help support student recruitment. “The admissions budget might not be able to send people all over the country for college fairs, but we have alumni who are more than willing to do that for us,” said Miller. Last summer, Thiel held a Cranberry event joining alumni, current students and prospects. Grove City’s website also contains a student referral section. Additionally, colleges honor legacy families, in which a parent and child attend the same school, by waiving application fees or holding appreciation dinners.

Lastly, alumni associations benefit higher learning institutions through development efforts. “Just being able to take that financial burden off the school for scholarships is important,” said John Mackie, Grove City College alumni association president. “We just finished our capital campaign for a new science building. It’s nice to give back, help current students and continue the cycle of giving.”