Alumni relations at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (USA), is on the verge of an overhaul, and to hear campus reps tell it, that's a good thing. Alumni relations has been swept up to a new level of visibility and accountability within the institution's operational structure. The details are numerous, but in a nutshell, a master plan for alumni relations is proposing the following - for starters:
- The establishment of the Rutgers University Alumni Association (RUAA), a new, single, all-encompassing volunteer structure to include all Rutgers graduates from all campuses.
- Automatic lifetime membership in the RUAA for all Rutgers alumni, without dues.
- An expanded charter for the Board of Governors’ Committee on University Relations to also encompass alumni relations, and creation of a joint committee of the boards of Governors, Trustees and Overseers.
- Creation of "an alumni center or presence" on all three main campuses (New Brunswick, Camden and Newark).
- Distribution of Rutgers Magazine to all alumni
The unification under a single Association has been an issue, since Rutgers alumni organizations have been very decentralized.
Rutgers has more than 360,000 alumni, so this certainly should be a priority area for campus attention. Congratulations go to Donna Thornton, who has been promoted from Associate Vice President to Vice President for Alumni Relations. Rutgers President Richard McCormick in a "letter to the Rutgers community" on December 6, 2007, said he is committed to supporting "a vibrant alumni program." There's a healthy dose of standard cultivation rhetoric too, stating that the plan is really
an invitation to alumni to come home. Rutgers wants you to be a vital part of its future, just as it has been an important part of your past. Whether you have been a graduate for months, years, or decades, we want to bring you back to the university—if not in body then at least in spirit. We welcome and respect you, we value your achievements, and we want you to be as proud of Rutgers as the university is proud of you.
This sounds great in a letter, and it is good to see a very visible, high-level, financially-supported commitment to alumni relations, resulting from a 14 month effort by a task force (and associated consultants). But of course the proof will be the institution's follow through on its ambitious commitment.
Linking alumni from separate campuses and numerous schools and colleges, while honoring their affinity to smaller campus units is a formidable challenge. We'll be watching to see how the alumni climate changes. The President expects the new governance and structure to be in place by the end of March 2008.
Click the following link for a full set of documents and background information:
Special thanks to Paul Clifford of East Carolina University for the heads up on this story.