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Highlights:

  1. The most successful higher-education institutes are those which have understood the unique needs and desires of the various groups of individuals (e.g. students, professors, researchers, alumni, support staff) who participate in higher-ed life. 
  2. Because true success is holistic, it’s important to understand how these various groups weave together in your institution. 
  3. Building and nurturing a strong education community requires substantial time and energy, but the values and benefits of a solid community make it worthwhile.
  4. As you strengthen your community, you’ll add value to three departments in particular: (1) Recruitment & Admissions, (2) Student Experience & Careers Services, and (3) Alumni Relations. Below, we’ve compiled some of the top benefits for each of these departments.

 

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What does “success” look like in your college or university? What about within your specific department? Probably your institution has several different metrics, some of which overlap with each other. 

For example: If you have an increasing influx of new admissions each year, but an alarmingly high dropout rate, you know you’re not providing a phenomenal student experience. 

Or: If your institution engages and supports its students in a way that many of them cross the graduation stage, but then very few go on to secure desirable employment opportunities, you know there’s still work to be done. 

Or: If your graduates flood the different sectors of the workforce and quickly move up their career ladders, but don’t maintain any affinity for or connection with their alma mater, it’s unlikely that you’ll be satisfied with the ways your institution engages its alumni. 

True success is holistic

A university is most successful when it: 

  • organically recruits and retains top-tier talent
  • thoroughly provides its students with the support, skills, opportunities, and networks that they need to enter their chosen career path 
  • continues to form and nurture relational ties with their graduates as they progress throughout their careers. 

Importantly, the journey that individual students embark on as they move from potential recruits to engaged students, to connected alumni is not strictly linear. Rather, a successful university is one that has created a sense of community where the individuals at each point of their journey are interacting with other individuals who are in different stages.

Because these three aspects of the student experience are so interconnected, it follows that the three respective departments (e.g. Recruitment and Admissions, Student Experience & Careers Services, and Alumni Relations) are also integrally connected. In many contexts, these three departments actively collaborate together to provide optimal student experiences. But, more generally, this interconnectivity is precisely why it is so important for the university to build and nurture a solid community. 

 

 

Building a Strong Community Benefits all Members

In What is “Community” and Why Does It Matter?, I explained that a community is much more than a simple group of people. Communities enable and encourage ongoing engagement and support between individuals. They are also intentionally designed and nurtured to increase communication, build trust, and create a sense of belonging.

When the university builds and nurtures a community that encourages engagement across its members, it reaps a number of tangible benefits for its individual departments and teams. 

Here are 3 of the top benefits that Recruitment & Admissions teams experience when their higher education institute has a solid community. 

  1. Overall enrollment increases as prospective students engage with current students and alumni members who can relay positive stories about their time as a student. 
  2. Top students across various academic streams are attracted to a university/college with an interconnected community because of the high employability rates associated with strong communities.  
  3. International students are more likely to hear of, and pursue admissions with, a university/college with a strong community. [1] [2]

Here are 4 of the top benefits that Student Outcomes/Student Experience & Careers Services teams experience when their higher education institute has a solid community. 

  1. A strong student community provides peer support and increases the mental wellbeing and sense of belonging amongst students. 
  2. Satisfied students will give strong responses to surveys around satisfaction, which affects the ranking of the institution. 
  3. Student employability increases when students have an opportunity to connect with alumni through mentorship, job shadowing opportunities, or job leads.
  4. With educational trends leaning towards remote learning, it’s important for higher education institutes to distinguish themselves as being able to provide students with a sense of togetherness and connection in spite of remote learning.

Here are 6 of the top benefits that Alumni Relations & Outreach teams experience when their higher education institute has a solid community. 

  1. Being strongly connected in a community gives more opportunities to showcase the value of alumni donations and/or provide frequent opportunities for alumni to contribute towards research, programs, and student scholarships. 
  2. Alumni are more likely to participate in mentorship programs and will sustain and deepen their involvement over time. 
  3. Established alumni are more likely to offer career shadowing opportunities to current and graduating students.
  4. Regardless of whether or not they are financial donors or mentors, Alumni can plug themselves into various volunteer opportunities which strengthen the school’s reputation.
  5. A solid community reinforces and strengthens the institutional reputation and positions it to excel on national and international rankings. 
  6. Engaged alumni are excellently positioned to act as brand ambassadors for the university.

 

 

Deciding to build and nurture a strong education community.

Higher educational institutes around the world are recognising the value of community and are launching community strategies to realise the benefits we’ve outlined here. 

 

If you would like support in building your own community, whether you are part of a department team focused on Recruitment/Admissions, Student Experiences, or Alumni Relations, Aluminati is here to support you. Our consultancy team is available to help with early-stage community strategy development or growth stage community scale-up projects. 

 

We’ll work with you to better understand your education community and how to build and sustain deeper interactions between all your members. And of course, the stunning Aluminate Community Builder, our cutting-edge community platform, is available to meet the critical digital requirements of any modern community.

 

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