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This Virtual Roundtable was held on the 18/June/2020. University engagement professionals from 20 institutions gathered to discuss the challenges, opportunities and responses to the pandemic situation. Below we present the highlights and takeaways. 

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Introducing the topic and spotlight speaker, Johana Canda Fiserova. 

SPOTLIGHT: Managing the impact of COVID-19 in the transition from student to alumni during the pandemic and beyond

Johana Canda Fiserova, Head of International Engagement, King’s College London

“Engaging is now more important than ever.”

Research from KCL:

Three key points:

  • 1. If graduates are engaged by 30, they are engaged for life
  • 2. If you don’t engage in the first 5 years post-graduation, you lose 25% of graduates
  • 3. Recent grads (those graduated up to 24 months) tend to see themselves as customers of the university – so think of their experience. The transition from student to alumni should be seamless

Engage recent graduates

  • Connect with all internal stakeholders who were involved in the final year experiences
    • All people involved in comms during the last year (e.g. Alumni Relations Dept) need to be in sync with the teams in the university or faculties in terms of comms
    • Need to be connected and representatives from the university joined up with the student side of things
      • Students will always see you as the University/institution regardless of if they are students or alumni
      • You should represent the institution seamlessly during the transition

Graduates see themselves as customers

  • They want something on top of the diploma as they usually pay for as they are missing out on the ‘whole’ experience
  • They have a feeling of kinship and closeness with the institution. We must maintain this relationship and deliver value.
    • 80% of graduates are looking for additional resources such as:
      • Mentoring
      • Sponsorship for visa/entrepreneurship

What is on offer? 

  • Important to be interconnected – how can you assist in the AR office?
    • KCL have created packages specific to recent grads, designed with them in mind
      • Use of LinkedIn
      • Secure financial future
      • Mentoring platform groups

What to do about Graduation?

  • Can’t have a normal one, but look at it as an opportunity
  • Engage other parts of your alumni body
    • Key volunteers to put on physical and virtual events
  • Offer to be part of a bigger, wider alumni family – can add value for recruitment and volunteering opportunities

These initiatives don’t have to be unique to the situation we’re in

  • Alumni are used to certain activities and are digital natives so these ways of working should become regular and scheduled

Questions:

For the grads under 30 you get them for life – what are the key actions for that age group?

A: Good segmentation in comms. They differ from other alumni depending on where they are in their life.

After the 24 month mark, what do they need from the university?

A: If they are already in a good job, we identify need for other support

What is their affinity?
A:

    • Volunteering
    • Mentoring
    • Events

 

Are you using a CRM to segment and create automated correspondence?

A: KCL is trying different options, haven’t cracked it just yet. Have different approaches and considerations…

  • Are working towards affinity coding (Rating for alumni engagement)
  • Working with the student union, getting the data about societies and clubs, with a focus on those different affinities
  • Difficult for KCL to get that club data at the moment
  • Need to have the right systems in place

What areas of the university got involved in the final work working group?

Different representatives:

  • Graduation events team
  • Comms & marketing teams
  • Careers
  • Institute (like Entrepreneur) 
  • Faculty representatives
  • Principal’s office
  • Logistics (venues)
  • If not integrated in alumni comms, then people from major gifts team 

 

Who is having virtual graduations/celebrations?

KCL are hosting activity at the faculty level due to furlough teams. More of a welcome to the alumni community rather than graduation.

Breakout Sessions

Break out session question:

What is specifically unique to your grads from the university? How can you advocate for recent grads from the university? How to get budget and buy-in?

A total of 26 participants were divided into breakout rooms.

Here is an overview of the actions, challenges and opportunities:

Actions

  • More universities are doing virtual graduations, most as a temporary geasture, with the aim to be done ‘live’ next year. One institution pre-recorded videos of graduation speakers to avoid technical issues and to keep on time
  • Universities have been focussing on community building/hooks
  • Have increased frequency of the newsletters and comms
  • Have shared blogs written by alumni themselves (experiences of the pandemic)
  • Invested time in creating regular roundtable and webinar events
  • One university had 400 people attend a webinar series over just the first 3 weeks showing consistency works. The first week they had a neuroscientist, managing mental health during COVID-19 which maxed out the 100 person Zoom limit. Now they are getting an academic or alumni each week to speak. They try to make these as professional as possible in terms of presentation, branding and execution
  • In another university, widening participation students were meant to go on international trips to spend days in offices with alumni in the US, etc, but this was cancelled. Instead they created a ‘Bringing the University to You’ style event
  • Universities are creating more content such as how-to videos, playlists of university songs grads relate to their time a University
  • Creating more national and international virtual events
  • A young university – celebrating 10th anniversary this year with a quite small alumni body (around 1000) are working on getting the database up and running to see where alumni end up and how they can better support them (especially recent grads) in terms of careers or moving on to masters (they only offer bachelor’s degrees) in challenging times
  • One institution has offered to pay for LinkedIn Learning
  • Another is working with directors of studies on undergraduate programmes
  • An institution focussed on creating LinkedIn groups for each undergraduate programme
  • Another is looking at doing specific Q&A session with Alumni and graduates on particular topics and to deliver this in partnership with Careers as a mini programme for them
  • One is focussing on recent grads that are very active on LinkedIn/online to drive engagement

Challenges

  • Getting the volume and themes of comms right: Everyone is being bombarded with messaging at the moment, so have to be careful to send relevant information to them
  • Budgets are on hold or being stripped right back, so many things that they had been planning to do, they can’t
  • Some are struggling to engage through social media
  • How to show relevance: what can we do?
  • How to add value to the student / grad experience beyond ideas such as LI Learning
  • How not to be the key voice on social groups
  • Important to get a balance between emotional and practical support for recent graduates. So considering their final experiences with the University (gala dinners, graduation ceremonies etc) but also the support they need taking their next steps into the world of work
  • Alumni team are expected to deal with all comms after graduation, so have to pass on the messages e.g. you can still access our services despite restrictions etc

Opportunities

  • There is more cross-faculty collaboration – at one university – much of the engagement was careers driven rather than Alumni, but now they have a closer Careers / Alumni relationship than in the past.
  • The situation is inspiring new ideas and ways of working
  • One university decided to do smaller online graduations with the intention to have a physical event when allowed. This gives the Alumni team a second bite at the cherry to lock in the graduates
  • More time to create comms, e.g. graduates getting nice messages from key academics on the programmes
  • Opportunities to showcase the college/university virtually
  • Finally have some time to review offers and offer more to new graduates
  • One institution got the go-ahead to segment data using an external company. Before they had no segmentation, they did ‘one size fits all’ offers. Now they are planning new graduate offerings based on segmented data.
  • Lots of opportunity in terms of changing mindsets and adapting to online technologies to support students and alumni, and bring the community together (especially international alumni) 

Open Roundtable Discussion

Chair brings people back and asks groups to share some of the above ideas.

Johana mentioned a great virtual graduation that Georgia Tech in the USA did, here is the video: https://commencement.gatech.edu/  

Aluminati’s Class of 2020 Solution

Aluminati is offering the specific capability to engage the Class of 2020 and recent graduates in order to give them the support they need right now. 

It allows you to add a feature within your Aluminate platform that gives students and recent graduates the opportunity to submit their requests for help. Mentors can then reach out to these students and recent graduates to offer them tailored support. 

For more information on this feature, email maria@aluminati.net for a call to explore options. 


Aluminati’s COVID-19 Support Packages

Aluminati have created two initiatives to support the short term emergency response requirements of the education sector: 

Student Admissions Retentions Platform: https://www.aluminati.net/offer-holder-solution/

COVID19 Client Support Pack: https://www.aluminati.net/covid19-support/


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