Benefits of Aligning Career Development With Alumni Relations
Spotlight: Small Institutions, from "Business Briefs" department in the September 2011 issue of Business Officer
By Kristin Woods
While collaboration between career development and alumni offices is not unusual on campuses around the country, the University of Richmond, Virginia, took a more deliberate step to connect current students more frequently and formally with those who came before them. On July 1, 2010, the university formally aligned its career development center with the office of alumni relations to form the office of alumni and career services.
One area in which alumni are now playing a more critical role is in achieving the university's commitment to increase internship opportunities available to students. This initiative is a core part of the university's 2009-14 strategic plan, "The Richmond Promise." Such hands-on roles are increasingly essential to completing the campus learning experience and competing successfully for jobs after graduation. In addition to the internships, the new services center encourages other effective networking events and activities that are making a positive impact.
After Richmond President Edward Ayers made the decision to align the offices, the staff embarked on conversations regarding position descriptions and reporting lines, co-location of offices, and budgetary considerations. Last December, we launched the combined offices' strategic planning initiative, with a committee co-chaired by the associate directors and assisted by outside counsel. As of July 1, we have a plan that will guide us for the next three years.
Richmond's mascot is the Spider, which provides many kinds of imagery and inspiration. For one, we encourage our first-year and undergraduate "Spiders" to build their webs of contact. We assist by aligning ongoing programs and services previously held independently for students and alumni.
One such program is the annual fall networking reception in New York City for alumni in the finance industry. It will now be held in conjunction with the annual finance career trip for students. On the evening of their overnight stay in the city, students can attend a networking reception with alumni in the very professional fields in which they hope to find internships and jobs. The University of Richmond Alumni Association signaled its support of the office alignment and its commitment to students by sponsoring these networking receptions in the year ahead.
Other networking options include: (1) students' ability to review online postings of jobs and internships provided by alumni and (2) opportunities for alumni to take advantage of the center's career counseling, review online job postings, and attend information sessions focused on applying for federal jobs.
Fostering lifelong relationships between the University of Richmond and its alumni continues to be an important goal. Doing so through these types of programs and services benefits everyone. And, we know that the more people feel engaged, the more likely they are to give back, be it by hiring another Spider, referring a prospective student to us, or making a financial gift.
As we implement our strategic plan, we have expanded the metrics to measure our progress. For instance, we can now identify and quantify the job and intern postings provided by alumni. Some pre-alignment metrics remain, such as the number of regional events held across the world or the number of student-advising appointments.
While some things change, others stay the same. Alumni will return to campus for homecoming and reunion weekends. And they'll still gather for regional events and athletics pregame festivities. But now we have a new means of engaging them in an intentional way that takes advantage of their particular expertise. We are confident this alignment of alumni relations and career services will continue to provide rewarding opportunities for both students and graduates.
SUBMITTED BY Kristin Woods, assistant vice president for alumni and career services, University of Richmond, Virginia