Office of Alumni and Family Engagement rebrands name, forms new networks across the Davidson community

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Staff of the Office of Alumni and Family Engagement pose outside their office located on Main Street. Photo by Sarah Woods

The Office of Alumni and Family Engagement, which is located on Main Street to the left of the Glasgow Exit, is not on most students’ radars. Regardless, the Office plans on making several changes that it hopes will positively impact the lives of students long after they leave Davidson, even if they never see the office building itself. The Alumni Office defines an alumnus as anyone who has successfully completed one semester at Davidson.

The purpose of the Office as it stands now is to reconnect such alumni with the college as well as with each other. The Fall Fling during Homecoming and the Davidson Discovery Initiative, both of which work towards connecting present students with alumni, are some of the current ways in which the Alumni Office accomplishes its goal.

The first and most obvious of the changes being made is the name of the branch itself. Formerly known as the Alumni Relations Office, the Office says its new title reflects its aim to, according to Executive Director Lisa Combs ‘90, take the “opportunity to think bigger and better. Doesn’t mean necessarily adding new programs, but really picking our heads up and looking at all of the things available to Davidson alumni and students right now and [improve].” Combs oversees the Office of Donor Relations and examines the Alumni Office’s use of engagement strategies for how alumni-college relations are built.

In general, most of the upcoming alterations are simply expansions of many of the programs and models that the Alumni Office previously had in place. Parents were already a substantial part of the Office’s outreach; by including “Family” in its name explicitly, however, the Office hopes to begin more conscious efforts to incorporate parents into the alumni-parent-student network.

Marya Howell ‘91, the Office’s Director, noted, “As networks become more global in nature, we’ve started to differentiate between alumni and parents less and less. Parents, for instance, have always been invited to our chapter events … Current parents were getting to meet alumni all for the same mission, and part of what we realized is that this form of engagement is something that really can be all in.” Howell oversees the Office of Alumni and Family Engagement, including its staff, communications, and programs.

The Office’s Staff Directors all agreed that these changes are equally based in expansion and reform in that they are taking this as an opportunity to reflect on the ways by which they execute their programs.

In the future, they hope to better engage different demographic groups by looking at generational models. These models will help ensure that parents and alumni are receiving information in the ways that they want, and  take a more “collaborative approach,” according to Judith Rowles, Assistant Director, by connecting to other college departments.

Similarly, according to Combs, the team plans to initiate a “holistic approach to how the college provides opportunities for alumni and current parents to learn about what’s going on at Davidson, to volunteer in ways that are meaningful to them, and to serve as advocates.”

In terms of expansion, the Office intends to grow its programs on lifelong learning by working with Davidson faculty members. Unsurprisingly, Davidson alumni often want to continue their education and social awareness, and the Office hopes to be able to provide this for them. As Howell explains, many alumni have expressed the desire to hear about faculty members’ opinions on “relevant current topics” and to have these issues broken down in “five to eight minute segments to give them some understanding about that.”

Its goals for the future are fairly ambitious. Howell says they hope to “increase [parent and alumni] engagement by fifty percent over the next three years,” as measured through engagement markers like volunteer activities, event attendance, advocacy, and donations.

While the majority of these changes concern the parents of students and the alumni of Davidson, the Alumni Office also wants to ensure that current students begin to understand all of the opportunities available to them through its programs.

Howell emphasized, “Davidson alumni love students, and they would love to be helpful in any way that they can … Really great job-shadowing opportunities and internships are available, but I think that students often think that they’re bothering alumni. That’s not true.”

The Office of Alumni and Family Engagement currently offers several programs that work towards building a network of parents, students, and alumni. In terms of annual events, it hosts homecoming weekend in the fall, reunion weekend in June, city chapters across the country, and affinity reunions throughout the spring for alumni involved in particular groups, like the Black Alumni and Union Board Reunions. As for programs, the Alumni Office offers opportunities for student-alumni interaction through the Davidson Discovery Initiative, the Davidson Career Advisor Network (DCAN), the Travel Program, the McNab Admission Program for prospective students, and Volunteer Week in April.

Combs elaborated: “You’re part of the Davidson family for your whole life, and that doesn’t stop when you leave campus.”