Marlene Scheel of the University of Guelph-Humber on Planning Beyond Young Alumni

Marlene Scheel at the University of Guelph-Humber's 2015 alumni reunion.

Marlene Scheel at the University of Guelph-Humber's 2015 alumni reunion.

"Young alumni" is a buzzphrase in higher ed right now, and for good reason. Young alumni represent the future of their alma maters, and reaching and engaging them requires new programming and new strategies.

But what happens when our young alumni aren't so young anymore? What kind of programming and strategy do we have then?

At the University of Guelph-Humber, Marlene Scheel is already looking ahead to the transition from young to established alumna. We asked her to share how she and her team think about the issue.

Engaging young alumni is different than engaging more established ones. Finding the right messaging and set of techniques to build relationships with them can be tricky. What have you found works best for engaging Guelph-Humber’s young alumni population?

We have found that reaching out to our alumni, meeting with them and hearing their story, their journey through school and into the "career" world is very beneficial to both sides. We hear about what they have accomplished and how U of GH helped them get there. They get to share their story and encourage future students as well. I always invite them to come back to campus, have a look around, speak in the classroom, act as a judge on a panel etc. Giving back in many ways is very beneficial to alumni.

Guelph-Humber just launched an alumni mentorship program this fall. How is that going? How have you overcome the obstacles that confront any new mentorship program? What have you learned so far?

Our mentorship program has taken off in leaps and bounds. We have approximately 80 matches thus far between students (mentees) and alumni (mentors) We are pleased with this level of activity thus far and only expect things to grow from here. We are in the midst of surveying our mentors and mentees to gain their feedback.

The U of GH is young, having been established in 2002, and I imagine much of the work you’ve been doing has involved building an alumni community from scratch. What can other institutions learn from the work you and your team have had to do with a young community?

I think the key takeaway here is really getting out and meeting with as many alumni as possible and hearing their story. It is important also to look forward and not just plan for how old our "young" alumni are today. They are growing up and will continue to grow up. So when you are designing programs, you have to look forward and ensure that the programs are sustainable long into the future. Though they are young, they are not just grown up students. They have entered into the alumni family and expect to be treated as such and be a part of this accomplished group going forward. Make it worth their time and investment to want to be a part of this ever important group.