UMN Alumni Association targets younger alumni with new program

The association is using social media and networking events to bring together old and new alumni.

by Megan Palmer

The University of Minnesota Alumni Association is working to increase its recent University graduate recruitment.

Launched earlier this year, the Maroon and Gold Network allows alumni to connect with fellow graduates, current students and University faculty to form connections. The alumni association opened the network up to current students in hopes it will inspire students to join the association sooner after graduation.

Alumni can sign up for the network to answer career questions and give advice. Students and recent alumni can use the network to receive feedback and suggestions from alumni. 

“We surveyed alumni about what’s important to them and what they wanted from us, and career services topped the list,” said Lisa Lewis, CEO of the association. Since the Maroon and Gold Network launched in the spring, more than 1,300 alumni from over 25 countries have signed up, Lewis said. 

Matt Chimento, an alumnus who graduated in 2014, said he joined the network to give back to the University community,  

“I’m pretty passionate about getting students and recent alumni connected to the corporate network,” he said. 

According to Lewis, those who have graduated from the University in the past 10 years are considered recent alumni. 

The network is part of a push to recruit younger grads to the alumni association to increase membership. The association has been making a deliberate effort to introduce itself to students before they graduate by targeting them on social media, holding Welcome Week events and hosting a send-off for graduating students.

“Students will be an alum one day. They’re a student for a short period of time, [but] they’re an alum for the rest of their lives,” Lewis said.

In addition to the Maroon and Gold Network, the alumni association held its first annual Senior Send-Off in May for students who graduated in the spring. The event detailed how graduates can ease the transition from students to alumni and emphasized resources that are available to them if they become alumni. 

“It exceeded our expectations wildly,” Lewis said of the number of students that attended. Lewis said the association originally expected about 500 students to attend, but over 900 participated.

Rachel Salem, a marketing senior who will graduate in December, said she does not feel any rush to get involved as an alumna due to a desire to separate herself from the University for a while after graduating. 

“I feel like, personally, I don’t feel the need to [join] until I’m older and more financially stable,” Salem said. “I don’t want to ‘keep the yearbook open’ post-grad by coming back too often.” 

The cost of being in the association also played a role for Salem. A lifetime membership in the alumni association costs $750 while an annual membership is $25 per year for students who have graduated within the past five years and $50 per year for all other alumni. 

“I won’t be able to donate much because I have so much debt coming out of school,” Salem said. 

But Lewis and Chimento said they hope to convince students it is never too early to get involved.

“It’s easy to walk away from the University and totally disconnect … it takes a little more effort to be actively involved,” Chimento said. “I think the Alumni Association is great at trying to keep people connected.”