Recently, colleges across the country have been looking for ways to boost engagement among their students and alumni bases. Colleges have always been interested in ensuring that their communities have access to a bustling network, and we have seen this trend increase tenfold in recent years for several reasons.
Some experts believe that the pandemic has played a role in the emphasis on student engagement, as the shift to online processes necessitated exploring ways to keep students feeling connected and involved.
Others liken the renewed focus to institutions realizing that fostering engagement is essential for a positive school environment, as both students and alumni have shown an increased interest in playing a role in developments on campus.
As a volunteer member of Columbia University, Teachers College Young Alumni & Student Engagement Committee, Michael Treco acknowledges that there are many ways universities are looking to build upon existing communities and networks at institutions.
Here, Michael Treco includes just a few of the most common ways that colleges are looking to increase engagement – as well as how colleges can build upon these practices to make them their own and apply them to their campus communities.
Why Focus on Student and Alumni Engagement?
An important step in determining how your college can better foster engagement among student and alumni communities is focusing on why building upon it is so important.
There are many reasons why experts in colleges across the country believe that engagement is growing in importance and prevalence. Student and alumni engagement experts speak to how emphasizing the process goes a long way towards creating a positive environment on campus by helping both groups feel connected to happenings on campus.
The qualities that contribute to a positive campus environment have been documented for quite some time. Some of the most listed frequently qualities these types of environments boast are that they encourage student-faculty contact, uphold cooperation among student communities, and increases schools’ ability to maintain high-quality education.
As universities continue to serve increasingly diverse communities of students and alumni, making these individuals feel as though they are part of a bustling, far reaching, and supportive community is becoming increasingly crucial.
How Are Colleges Exploring Ways to Increase Engagement?
Colleges have entire committees that are focused on engagement these days. This is a testament to how important nurturing student and alumni communities has become.
On paper, it does not seem very difficult to connect like-minded individuals in order to empower them to build networks and sub-communities within the larger student body. In practice, however, there are a lot of moving parts to consider. After all, even changes such as developments in technology impact how we connect with one another. Colleges need to be a step ahead of trends that will further impact how we connect with one another.
Luckily, colleges have been able to create blueprints for how to best reach and connect alumni and student communities. While there may be a variety factors that influence your college’s strategy, these tips provide a framework for some of the most common methods for building and maintaining community engagement. Remember that strategies always can be further personalized depending on how your school’s alumni and student communities respond!
Focus on Online Channels
Even before the pandemic pushed a lot of our processes to digital channels, we were already seeing a technological boom. Students and alumni are much more in tune with the internet than even just a few years ago, and colleges are realizing that investments in improving their online resources are crucial for fostering engagement.
Some of the first things that colleges will want to look at are their social media profiles. Aside from being optimized to be easy to find and connect with, institutions will also want to flesh them out to ensure that they are a good place to connect, access resources, and get meaningful information about the university, events, etc.
Well organized, streamlined online channels will encourage students and alumni to connect with one another and stand out as a great way to reach many people at once. If your online profiles contain outdated information, are not consistently updated, or do not connect with people joining the conversation, you will miss out on the opportunity to connect with the greater community and inspire further engagement.
Get Input from the Community
Institutions can get so involved in the process of figuring out how to connect with alumni and students that they forget to ask the most important people for their opinion- the alumni and students!
Feedback from these groups is essential if your goal is to reach them, and colleges can get a lot of actionable information by simple polls that are designed to gauge interest in anything from events to resources that take their preferences into account.
Michael Treco maintains that polls are one of the most successful and popular methods for gauging interest, but they are far from the only approach that can be utilized to get useful information from key groups. Colleges can also use feedback and information included in online conversations to learn more about the diverse needs of their communities.
Colleges that exhibit an interest in learning about how to best serve their student and alumni communities will eventually determine the best ways to facilitate outreach, inspire connections, and help both students and alumni participate in fruitful networking. Remember that your goal is to include them in the process of building strong relationships at their Alma matter- so their opinions are of utmost importance along the way.
Emphasize Exciting Events
Events are an integral part of networking and community building, so it makes sense that colleges emphasize them to increase engagement on campus. These events have synergy with feedback gained from conversations in alumni and student circles as well as polls. This is because many of the best events for these groups are curated with their preferences in mind.
Colleges are always looking for ways to introduce new and exciting events to build upon engagement. The pandemic gave way to virtual events, which will remain popular through the months and years to come. Now, colleges are also exploring how they can make build in-person events that have a lasting impact.
You may not be able to please everyone when planning events, but a commitment to diverse experiences will give alumni and students a variety of suitable activities to choose from!