Proposal for "Alumni Day 2000
Alumni and Development Office
Widener University School of Law
©2000 Mary Kate Andris
"The mission of this Alumni Association shall be to advance the cause of legal education, to promote the interests and increase the usefulness of Widener University School of Law, to promote mutual acquaintance and good fellowship among all members of the Association, and to support and promote the Office of Alumni Relations and Development of the School of Law."
The Alumni and Development Office is staffed by an Assistant Dean for Development, Assistant Director of Alumni and Development, and 2 full time Administrative Assistants. With the current reunion program as is the Alumni and Development Office is responsible for planning and staffing approximately 30 events per year. All the events are designed to break even and have a positive impact on the alumni body. Three of the major events throughout the year raise money for scholarships and awards given to students of academic standing. The office is also responsible for raising money for the Annual Fund, which offsets the operating cost of the budget, endowment, and the capital campaign. Although it is a small office, the events and fandraising goals exceed what it is expected.
The Current Program
Currently, the Alumni and Development Office plans class reunions for the fall of every academic year. We have reunions for the twenty-fifth year, twentieth year, fifteenth year, tenth year, and fifth year classes for both the Harrisburg and Wilmington campuses. For each reunion, there is a committee formed of class members from the designated classes to help plan the class reunions, i.e. - date, time, location, casual or formal, cocktail party or dinner/dance, and encouraging attendance.
After the committees meet and choose a date, the Alumni and Development Office is responsible for the preparations. The responsibilities include: mailings, booking the location, picking the menu, securing the price, collecting the registration, preparing class directories, setting up and breaking down as well as staffing the event. The attendance
for the reunions has been increasing because we have had previous reunion with some of the classes. On the average, each reunion has an attendance of 50 people (that number includes alumni and their spouses).
We have had the opportunity since the creation of the new Law building to convince some of the classes to have their reunions on campus. Each has been successful and has given alumni a chance to reconnect with the Law School.
New Program Model
The proposed model differs from the existing model as follows:
The proposed "Alumni Day" model will be different from the existing program in many ways. "Alumni Day" will be just that - a day of reunion activities for alumni and their families on the Wilmington campus. This will provide them the opportunity to explore the changes that have been made on campus and the chance to get to know the Law School again.
The day will start with a Family Picnic on the lawn in front of Geesey Mansion. The theme of the day will be "Come Join the Carnival." The picnic will provide alumni and their families with lunch including chicken breast sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, cotton candy, popcorn and many other treats. There will be pony rides, face painting, a clown and magician and many other activities for families to participate in.
During the latter part of the picnic, a Continuing Legal Education program on Ethics will be offered. The topic will be "Understanding the Legal Ethics of Internet Law" given by Professor Louise Hill. The CLE will be offered at no cost to our alumni and will serve as one (1) ethics credit. Widener University School ofLaw is an accreditedprovider of quality CLE programming in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Normally CLE's cost the alumnus/a $35 per person per credit.
In the evening, the alumni will be invited to attend their class reunion in a special location on campus. The evening event provides the alumni with the opportunity to catch up with old friends and relax while enjoying a cocktail reception in the Strine Atrium. Each reunion class will have the opportunity to hold separate reunions in separate locations on campus if they so choose.
In case of rain: The picnic will go on as planned except that it will be held inside the Barrister's Club. The picnic food will be served and alumni and their families will still be able to enjoy all the carnival activities. All of the activities will go on as planned, such as the cotton candy, face painting, magician and clown and popcorn machine. The only item that will not be able to be included in the day would be the pony rides.
Costs and Benefits of Alumni Dgy
The costs of improving and changing the program are enormous. We feel that over time these costs will pay for themselves. The new addition of the rentals for tents, grills, cotton candy and popcorn machines, tables, and chairs will all be figured into the cost per person of the entire event. ARAMARK will charge us for overtime for their staff as well as extra staff from Chester's campus. It will also reduce the amount of evenings and weekends that we would need to have maintenance staff on campus as well as housekeeping. All of these costs will be used to determine the overall cost per person. We know we can reduce the price by eliminating the cost of renting ballrooms and paying outrageous catering fees at restaurants and hotels.
The Alumni and Development Office has taken the cue from the alumni body. Last fall we had reunions on campus and the overall sense of pride from the alumni about "their" law school and the improvements gave us a sense of direction. We feel that our cue from the alumni comes from their experience here on campus last year and the responses we received from them. It is a huge benefit for us to encourage alumni to return to campus. They will have the opportunity to see improvements and experience the growth on the campus so that they in turn will contribute to the law school through volunteering for oncampus programs and through financial contributions. There is an overall positive feeling on campus from all alumni regardless of the decade.
Another benefit of having one Alumni Day is staffing issues. We have discussed ways to compensate our staff for the long hours that they spend at the Law School whether it be planning events or staffing them. Changing the reunion program will take a lot more planning by staff and alumni but will remove four weekends of extra work.
The corporate body of a college or university is comprised of many integral parts, one of which is that division of the administration which deals with the external constituencies of the College. In most institutions this consists of alumni relations, development, public relations, publications, and special events. Of the many constituencies upon which a
college depends for support, guidance and continuity, the alumni body looms as one of the most influential. It is counted on to relate to individuals and perspective students the goals and aims of the institution. It provides input to the institution concerning its external image andits service and, of course, provides a financial base for the institution over a period of years. An institution without an alumni body that expresses pride and commitment to the institution is operating on an insecure foundation of advocacy, support, and is faced with a serious credibility gap in gaining support from external constituencies.
The particular needs of the alumni body must be carefully considered in establishing and strengthening an alumni relations program. At Widener University School of Law, it is essential that the alumni relations program reflect a close working cooperation between the administration and the Alumni Association. The traditional emphasis upon social activities has changed over the last few years as the alumni have become conscious of a need to participate actively in the well being of the institution as well as have activities available which bring them back in touch with the world of higher education.
The programmatic thrust of any alumni relations program must, of course, be reflective of the alumni body, which it is attempting to serve. Although once an intimate institution of individuals involved primarily of an all male program, Widener University School of Law now reflects a different student body; male, female, graduate students, older students, younger students, parents, et al. It has become increasingly apparent that the administration and the Alumni association need to rethink our method of relating to our alumni and what it is we wish to accomplish through our alumni relations program.
In assessing whether a program is successful or not, performance and productivity can be measured against the set of objectives and related plans that the Alumni Association and the Alumni and Development Office have established. One criterion for measuring the success of alumni programs is the degree of involvement of alumni participating in activities rather than the success of the activity itself. While sheer body count does not necessarily determine the success of a program, the numbers involved can be measured against the objectives of the program, whom it is servicing, and whether or not it is fulfilling a realistic need for the alumni relationship to the College.
In a normal year, planning of the alumni relations program should be completed and approved in the last quarter of the previous academic year in order to provide for adequate implementation time. It is appropriate for the Alumni Director and the Alumni Association Board of Directors to collaborate on efforts to establish a calendar of events for the coming year.
Van Wallach describes the Ingredients for success when planning reunions. He indicates six different ways to add more fan to reunions and homecoming. First one should start with an attractive event such as a midnight cruise. He points out that the cruise is a different way of getting alumni back on campus earlier. "The cruise itself was a catalyst for bringing some alumni back." (Wallach, 26).
The second idea was to add an extra dash of details whether it be through pictures from the "old days" or memorabilia like yearbooks. Focusing on the particular trends of a class or a particular theme that they can relate to helps them "take a walk down memory lane." (Something we did at Moravian when I was there was to make picture buttons out of people's yearbook pictures for them to wear throughout the weekend. Not only did it bring back memories, but it was a conversation starter.)
Ideas three and four are related. Appealing to a variety of tastes and focusing on class flavor are all a part of the committees' job. Your committee members should be helpful to the Alumni staff in focusing on special events that may have happened during their time there at the school. For example, maybe there was a big rally for the football team that year because they won the state championships. The reunion is a good time to revisit the events from the past and to celebrate them once again.
The fifth idea is one of my favorites. Wallach points out that it is important to reenact favorite campus traditions. In doing so, the alumni can think back to the times that they had to sing the alma mater every morning before breakfast or at every football game. It is important to keep traditions alive at reunions, because they are something about the school that they can relate to.
Last and possibly most important is to be willing to sample new ideas. Many new ideas come from committee members. If the committee wants to make their reunion the best reunion ever, they are going to try new things. It is important to be willing and open to try new things within reason. As Wallach points out, "Success doesn't happen by itself, make an extra effort to consider alumni needs, emphasize class identity, and include those little details that make alumni feel special" (30).
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