Report of the Alumni Relations Committee
For the Year 2003-2004
Presented to the University Senate
This past fall, on action of the Senate Executive Committee, the Alumni Relations Committee was reactivated, having been inactive since the end of the 1999-2000 academic year. The Committee held its first meeting on November 5 and met four subsequent times during the year.
The reactivation of the Committee must be seen in the
context of the Administration’s emphasis on improving the state of alumni
The Committee began its work without a specific mandate, and
at a time when the University Alumni Relations and Development Office (UDAR)
was still putting key personnel and infrastructure in place, as well as
grappling with the immediate challenge of the
The Committee decided to spend its first year in general fact-finding, in order to better understand the current state of alumni relations from the perspectives of various constituencies. Numerous people met with the Committee to share their views and respond to questions, including:
Austin Quigley, Dean of
Zvi Galil, Dean of the
Charles O’Byrne, President of the
· Anthony Roman, Associate Director of Alumni Relations
Cliff Wattley, President of the
Robert Siroty, M.D., Vice President of the
· Eric Furda, Vice President of Alumni Relations
These conversations were loosely structured and wide ranging. The findings of the Committee include:
· Generally, interaction and communication within universities occurs between faculty and students, and between the administration and alumni. Interaction is far weaker between, say, alumni and faculty – despite the fact that alumni often have strong memories of favorite faculty members.
· There needs to be further exploration into strengthening ties between students, faculty and alumni. Possibilities include enlisting retired faculty to speak at alumni events, establishing professional interest groups that bring together alumni practitioners and faculty academicians, and formalizing, possibly with database support, informal student requests of faculty mentors to connect them with alumni mentors. There is stronger interaction at Columbia between students and faculty than in earlier years, but this needs ongoing reinforcement from the top.
There is a clear need for developing an
alumni represent a highly underutilized resource of experience, professional
expertise and energy. Whether it is
in mentoring students, lobbying for legislation favorable to
of alumni to reconnecting with
alumni relations begins with regarding students as future alumni starting
with their acceptance to the University.
The alumni themselves must take more
responsibility for the alumni relations function, particularly outside the
The traditional focus on undergraduate alumni
should not obscure the needs of
· Current departmental performance reviews being conducted by Ira Katznelson include examining what role departments could play in student life. This might provide some ideas regarding the role of departments in alumni relations.
· The University should explore ways of developing events, lectures and classes to help foster the return of alumni to campus, which in turn promotes overall alumni involvement.
The Committee intends the above findings as initial observations to assist all involved in the alumni relations function in strengthening alumni involvement with the University. The committee will be meeting over the summer in order to set forth an overall agenda for next year’s work.
Linda Beck (Non-tenured, Barnard)
Bradley W. Bloch (Alumni), Chair
Richard Bulliet (Ten., A&S/SS)
Kevin J. Collins (Alumni)
Susan K. Feagin (EVP of University Development and Alumni Relations)