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Citizen Alum counters the image of alumni as primarily “donors” with a vision of them as also “doers.”  Alums are allies

in education–crucial partners in building multigenerational communities of active citizenship and active learning.



Citizen Alum, based at the University of Michigan, began in Fall 2011 as an affiliated program of the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP). Citizen Alum was officially launched at a January 10 2012 White House meeting, “For Democracy’s Future—Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission.” Citizen Alum offers a framework for a national network of campus teams that involve alumni–along with campus leaders, faculty, staff, and current students–as “agents and architects of democracy.”  To learn more, download two presentations, Background and Founding Vision and Introducing Citizen Alum.

We began by announcing that we were looking for 25 colleges and universities that will represent all sectors of American higher education. To date, 30 campuses have joined or are in the process of joining. We support Citizen Alum campus teams that deepen the institution’s public mission by involving more offices and departments as well as engaged alums—especially recent graduates. Working with this network, we encourage civic experiments, implement promising models, and undertake participatory research.

Conversations with Citizen Alum’s member campuses show that colleges and universities are using many different creative strategies. What they share is the common goal of reframing their approaches to public engagement in ways that support robust inter-generational connections–civic engagement in the fourth dimension, time.  In sum, Citizen Alum is a national listening project that enables us to hear, learn from, and act in concert with publicly engaged alums. We bring a set of core questions for both “gap” and “situated” alums–former students at every life stage, from the college-to-life transition through retirement. Those questions, along with other strategies for dialogue and inquiry, will be the basis for alumni listening projects and other Citizen Alum programs at each site.

Each participating campus forms a team that is willing to work with the national network of Citizen Alum sites for at least three years. The team may include representatives of academic programs, community service learning centers, alumni associations, institutional advancement offices, and, of course, citizen alums themselves. Centers and institutes may also become Citizen Alum sites. While we ask for certain commitments (see How To Join), there is no fee for joining Citizen Alum. Please contact Julie Ellison, lead organizer for Citizen Alum, if your campus or program is interested in participating.