Spearheading Lawrence’s programs aimed at keeping alumni engaged with the college and preparing students for life after Lawrence are Mark Breseman ’78, associate vice president of alumni and constituency engagement (ACE) and Mary Meany ’83, dean of career services. Lawrence Today caught up with them to ask about their efforts.
LT: There is renewed enthusiasm for finding new ways to get alumni engaged with the college. Why, at this time, are programs like Lawrence Scholars and Think Globally, Explore Locally so crucial in helping to fulfill Lawrence’s mission?
MM: As the study of liberal arts serves as a strong foundation for entering the world of work or furthering one’s education through the pursuit of either a fellowship, scholarship or graduate school program, Lawrence Scholars and the recently launched Think Globally, Explore Locally initiative are integrated into the learning process and help students with their journey to Life After Lawrence NOW! The offerings provide opportunities for students to gain visibility into different career choices.
MB: The bottom line is that we are developing programs that will engage our alumni with the college while also providing a benefit to our current students, allowing them to focus on Life After Lawrence NOW!
LT: Many alumni have been searching for ways to have a stronger connection to Lawrence, and programs like those mentioned above have helped the college make great strides in meeting their needs. What else are you doing to get more alumni engaged with their alma mater?
MB: Not all engagement is done on campus. We are continuing the regional (ACE) events around the country; we host networking events in Chicago, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities; we sponsor international trips—this year we are traveling to Greece, Amsterdam, London and perhaps Germany; the Björklunden Seminars continue to be a big draw for our alumni and we have started hosting similar seminars on campus in the summer. Of course Reunion Weekend is a huge hit every year, and the alumni who serve on the LUAA board of directors are very engaged with promoting the college’s initiatives.
MM: As Mark said, not all engagement is done on campus. We partner with alumni in different parts of the country in offering shadow programs where our students network with alumni in their fields of interest and shadow in the workplace. Past shadow programs have been held in Minneapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee. Look for “Network New York” in fall 2012. In addition, Think Globally, Explore Locally offers students an on-site glimpse into profit and not-for-profit organizations located 15 minutes to two hours from campus. In addition, we have one alumnus in particular who has various business needs globally and has done Skype interviews with a number of students for both internship and full-time opportunities.
LT: The evolution of Career Services and the Office of Alumni and Constituency Engagement (ACE) it is in its infancy; however, what has been the most noticeable change, to date, as Lawrence pushes toward increased alumni engagement?
MB: With the forming of ACE, there are now dedicated staff members energetically working on developing programs and new stewardship initiatives. Our staff plays key roles in assisting Admissions, Career Services and Warch Campus Center events, not to mention programs at Björklunden.
MM: From a Career Services perspective, the biggest change has been our heightened focus on alumni and employer connections.
LT: What are the challenges facing Lawrence as it works toward fostering lifelong relationships between its alumni and the college?
MM: Our challenge is no different from everyone’s challenge these days, and that is broadening our pool of alumni willing and able to partner with us, regardless of their location and time constraints. We welcome volunteers!
MB: A big challenge is keeping the alumni engaged with the college. We want them to feel LU remains an integral part of their lives—return to campus often, not just to visit but to participate in career networking programs; open and read all the emails from the college, including watching the weekly This is Lawrence videos; read Lawrence Today cover to cover. These are great ways to learn about all the exciting new programs at the college. We want alumni to wear LU gear constantly and tell friends and neighbors (especially students checking out colleges) how great it was/is to attend Lawrence.
LT: Both of you are Lawrence alumni. From that perspective, please share a few of your thoughts about these new initiatives aimed at increased alumni engagement with the college and its students.
MB: I am very proud of my alma mater. The experiences current students receive at LU would be hard to match at any other college.
MM: As an alum and former corporate human resources vice president, anything we can do to complement the outstanding classroom education our students receive at Lawrence and any insight we can provide them during the college years will be beneficial to them in Life After Lawrence NOW! It’s exciting to be able to expose our students to the “after” right “now”!
LT: How would you describe the interest alumni have in engaging with Lawrence? Are there very specific ways alumni prefer to get involved with the college, or are they ready, willing and able to step in and tackle whatever is asked of them?
MM: Fall Term, Career Services started sending parents a letter each term highlighting the current offerings, and it is really neat to receive emails from former classmates and other parents who have students at Lawrence and are willing to partner with us. I would add that the interactions alumni have with students help to further personalize the connection—“the campus” is really a community of students. From my experience, the alumni have as much fun engaging with the students as the students do with the alumni.
MB: Literally everyone I have asked to return to campus for a Lawrence Scholars program has expressed an interest in doing so. They all love the idea and are excited to be asked to give back to the college in this manner. Of course all alumni are used to being asked to donate money to their alma mater, and it is critical that we all continue to do just that, but these engagement programs give alumni a chance to give back to the college in another very important manner.
LT: What has been the reaction of students and faculty to these efforts so far?
MB: The Lawrence Scholars programs have been very well received by students and faculty. Our students recognize the fantastic opportunity they have to learn about exciting and challenging career paths after LU and faculty members often take advantage of the returning alumni by having them speak in their classes.
MM: There is a nice sense of collaboration with the faculty; and student participation in our programs continues to grow.
LT: If alumni reading this want to become more involved with the college, offer an internship or provide a mentorship opportunity, how should they proceed?
MB: They are certainly welcome to contact ACE and/or Career Services to learn about volunteer opportunities, sponsoring an internship, posting a job and alumni events.
MM: Specifically, if any of the alumni in the New York metro area want to be a part of our Network New York event with students, please contact us!
LT: Anything else you would like to add?
MB: We are absolutely thrilled with the response of our alumni to the Lawrence Scholars programs. It is very gratifying to see how passionate they are in sharing their career stories and experiences with our students.
MM: It is exciting to be back at my alma mater and helping students with their journey to Life After Lawrence NOW!
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit www.lawrence.edu/volunteer