Different Ways to Do It Right: Alumni Listening Projects
One of the reasons we started Citizen Alum is because we are convinced that creative new strategies in alumni relations are taking shape on college and university campuses all over the country. We are eager to learn more about these innovations.
Citizen Alum is committed to involving alums in multiple ways–through participation in academic activities (like capstone courses), working on specific issues with campus-community projects in the region, or serving on the Citizen Alum campus team. The first step in partnering with publicly engaged alums, however, is listening to them.
Over the last six months, as Citizen Alum has gone from a lunchtime brainstorm at the American Democracy Project Conference to a viable national undertaking, we have learned of existing or new alumni listening projects at several member campuses. The diversity of these programs shows that there are, indeed, many different ways to do it right.
Right at the top of Citizen Alum’s list of goals, therefore, is the resolution to “start listening projects to gather and learn from the reflections of engaged alumni.”
Listen to be surprised. Engaged alums take their civic vocation seriously. They come bearing gifts–the gifts of experience, ideas, skills, and strategies. As ACP National Coordinator Harry Boyte says, citizen alums “are hidden treasures.”
Listen to connect. Asking the right questions about what alums are doing is the first step in learning about their civic creativity. (See “What Questions Are They Asking?”) At Metropolitan State, the Citizen Alum team sees this as relationship-building, “laying the groundwork to connect directly to alums as public problem-solvers.”
Listen to stimulate research. Alumni are potential research partners–co-investigators on inquiries that benefit both the college and alumni themselves. For example, a joint research project might look at the aspirations and choices of publicly active students during the transition from college to career.
Listen to change the culture on campus. Listening projects connect academic and administrative offices to the university’s public mission in new, more collaborative ways.