Are You Getting Value As An Alum?

We all have some level of demonstrating our school pride, whether it arose from  the memories of your young, carefree days as an undergraduate and the old sweater that came with it, or the stress and strife of grad school burn-the-candle-at-both-ends bliss. As the years roll on, do you still get value from being an active member of your respective alumni associations? Do you feel valued? Or are you just another potential donor in a massive nationwide database for administrators to pore through and blast out emails and annual giving fund correspondence packets?

Do you have to set up a separate sub-inbox for emails that come from your alma mater? Or perhaps you never even notice them if they are relegated to the bulk folder? I get a lot of emails from my alma maters, Cornell and Arizona State University, probably three a week, but I don’t mind. Even when I joke about it, I still want to scan everything for relevancy to me. So I’ll give it the 10-second look, mark down the date or info and dump the rest. I enjoy flipping through both of my alma maters’ monthly alumni magazines, and since they are mostly online as well now, I also tend to share them on my Twitter feed.

I will admit that I don’t own a lot of alumni apparel. I have a CU visor I wear on the weekends and an obnoxiously bright yellow ASU T-shirt I’ll sport to the gym or on the biking trails at South Mountain. After all, I’m in the marketing business, so this is just my small piece of pro bono promotions.

Going to reunions and alumni mixers can be an interestingly awkward dynamic at times. Especially the one I went to last week when the friends I knew during the “salad daze” at Cornell didn’t show. I understand, they have big jobs in the Big Apple and family time on the weekends must take precedent.  So when you are immersed in a group of strangers with a common school bond, it can be like the great comic Steven Wright once remarked: “I like to reminisce with people I don’t know; granted, it takes longer.” A brilliant line, of which he has so many, but I digress.

I have stretched my bandwidth too much as of late, so I have to pick and choose the events I can attend. I prefer the luncheons with a concrete topic that interests me over the 90-minute sip-a-drink, grip-and-grin mixers. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be social and consider my self an “extroverted introvert,” but it can be tricky and attention-shaving to be in a genuine. longer conversation when you are scanning the rest of the room (as the other person may be doing as well).

As far as dues go, I recently re-engaged with Cornell for the 2011-12 campaign and paid for the first time in several years. Of course, going back to the reunion last week kind of guilted me into action. The good news is that I am back in their active books and will start receiving the magazine again (with the all-important “Where Are They Now?” class notes), one of three I receive from campus (main University quarterly, the individual college monthly news and the alumni version). Last month, I also re-upped with the ASU alumni association to keep me in good graces for year two since I completed the evening MBA program in May 2010.

So, anyway, these are just my randomly culled thoughts on what being an alum entails for me, or at least how I  make the effort to be in the “active” category. I wish I could be a prominent donor to either of my alma maters; perhaps some day, but they should both know that I am a proud alum and always interested in knowing what’s going on campus and in the professional alumni community at large. I will always be an advocate for the programs I completed wherever I go, and that’s the best I can do for now. Until then, I look forward to reading the next month’s feature stories in my inbox.

As great as it is to be an alum out in the world trying to make your mark in your line of work, I often ponder the merits of academia, especially as I have seen my sister succeed as a tenured business school professor and she’s only 41. I attended a lecture at Cornell in 1995 by the often-hilarious author and columnist Dave Barry, who told the audience, “Stay in school! Your parents are old, they’ll forget and keep paying the tuition.”

Go Big Red and Go Sun Devils! So go Big Red Sun Devils!

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