In an interview for HSE News, Ksenia Mardanova, Head of the HSE Office for Alumni Relations and Career Development, talks about the importance of creating a campus atmosphere that graduates want to come back to, how to connected with HSE, and what graduates can do to help today’s students.
— How are HSE-alumni relations and joint activities changing?
— Over the past 28 years, more than 60,000 students have graduated from the Moscow campus of HSE University. We want HSE to be a place they feel connected with for the rest of their lives.
A university should be a strong community, and a place that people return to regardless of whether they graduated three or 20 years ago. HSE’s doors are always open, and we do our best to make it a place people would like to come back to again and again.
I would like to point out that we interpret the notion of 'graduate' more broadly than is typical in Russia. We include under this term not only people who have earned their bachelor’s or master’s degrees from HSE, but also graduates of HSE’s CPD programmes, the HSE Lyceum, and HSE’s doctoral programmes. All of them are HSE alumni.
We didn’t use to pay too much attention to the role of graduates in the development of the university. This has become a recent trend of the past 5 to 7 years. It is worth noting that the 2030 HSE University Development Programme has a section that addresses activity with our alumni. This reaffirms the university’s desire to work with its graduates, while creating a space with the necessary mechanisms in place to help them reach their professional, academic, and creative potential.
— What do you do to motivate grads to return and get involved with HSE University?
— Last July, we established a joint Office for Alumni Relations and Career Development. We are working hard to strengthen our alumni community and foster an environment grads want to return to. The key is that we don’t want to pressure anybody to return. We want our university to be a place our graduates want to return to.
I’m happy that our Pokrovka campus has opened its doors because it is a beautiful historical building. We are making the most of this resource, and we have already held three tours of Durasov House. Visitors can learn about the history of the Moscow Practical Academy of Commercial Science, which was located there in the 19th century. We can compare Pokrovka then and now. It is fascinating to learn about the building’s past and the present and the relationship between the two.
We are also holding art nights—we get together to chat and draw pictures of the HSE University’s buildings in different styles.
Last but not least, we are beginning to establish an HSE alumni community abroad. Many HSE graduates go on to work outside Russia. We’ve got a tradition: we hide an HSE postal tube in popular places of each city we visit on business, and we organize quests for our graduates to find it. We have held quests in London and in Portugal. It is so nice to read notes of thanks from our graduates who have found the tube and are happy to know that HSE University remembers them.
We always consider our graduates’ suggestions and proposals. For instance, one alumna had the idea of creating networking clubs, which we supported. Another alumna who graduated from HSE University ten years ago and is living in London organized an HSE alumni reunion, and she and her former classmates came to gather in Moscow last year from all over the world.
We are very grateful to our graduates for these initiatives. We’d love people to always fondly remember the place they spent a considerable part of their lives.
— What can alumni do for HSE University?
— We have launched a mentorship programme, in which our graduates play a large role. However, many alums would also like to work as teachers. We are currently discussing the idea of setting up an Alumni School. For instance, a graduate who is employed with Deloitte will be coming to HSE University to give lectures on corporate finance. This is a great opportunity for our graduates to share their experience and for our students to get some firsthand knowledge about working in business.
I believe our students will be able to increase their competitive advantage substantially if the market plays an active role in their education. Graduates who are involved in the education process can help our students in this respect.
I hope we’ll be able to launch this project as early as in 2021. There is a demand for it, and currently we are looking for new flexible ways to involve our graduates in teaching activities.
We have been practicing this format of teaching at the Career Development Centre for quite a while, and we can see that it is very popular with students. They find it interesting to meet and talk with HSE graduates.
– How will students who are graduating this year be able to stay connected with HSE University?
— First of all, they need to leave their current email address in LMS or subscribe to our newsletters. We regularly send alumni newsletters with updates about what is going on at HSE University. Our graduates can also subscribe to our pages on VKontakte and Facebook.
Last year, each graduate received a parting gift from HSE University. We are happy to see a lot of people using their HSE tote bags, and we will likely continue this tradition of giving keepsake gifts at our commencement ceremonies.
Our graduates can also obtain a special alumni card. You can apply for the card online. All you need is to fill out an application form and upload your photo. Once you receive an email confirmation, you can pick up your card at our offices located at Myasnitskaya Street or Pokrovsky Boulevard.
Opening hours of the Pass Office located at 20 Myasnitskaya Street temporarily changed:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Passes are issued from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Please note that the office is close for lunch from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm.
Wednesday from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Passes are issued from 1:00 pm to 8:30 pm. Please note that the office is closed for a break from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Please note that the office at 11 Pokrovsky Boulevard is currently not issuing passes.
The card gives access to all HSE infrastructure: the gym, the cafeteria, and all university campuses except dormitories. It also allows access to our loyalty programme supported by over 25 partners.
By this summer, we are planning to launch the card in a digital Wallet format so that cardholders can use their cards even when they have left them at home. We are also going to issue a full-scale mobile application that will notify graduates of special offers at shops and cafes.
Unfortunately, those who continue their studies in a master’s programme or work for HSE University are not eligible to receive the card, but they can enjoy the benefits offered by the HSE loyalty programmes. The list of these programmes can be found on our website.
— What alumni communities in both Russia and abroad do you look to as models?
— In general, alumni associations and fundraising are quite new in Russia. Russian universities started developing their graduate communities only 6 or 7 years ago. In Russia, we mostly look to Saint Petersburg State University as a successful model. They have a great deal of work, and this university most exemplifies fruitful university-alumni relations in the Russian academic context.
We are also interested in the experience of the Russian Digital School, although it is a bit different. This school has only 2,000 graduates, so it knows more about them — where they work, how many children they have, etc.
Outside Russia, we are particularly interested in American and British universities’ experience. For instance, alumni endowment donations make up half of Harvard University’s total funding. This is huge.
The way we think about it is another important aspect. Alumni associations and fundraising are recent trends, and it won’t be that soon before people realize the importance of these practices. We work with people to raise their awareness. For instance, we and the Dobroshrift project team have produced a limited collection of special edition HSE hoodies.
In our opinion, this is a very good example. We find it very important that HSE University participates in such charity initiatives and thus contributes to the promotion of fundraising.
— The HSE Alumni Awards is expected to be held in May. Will the event be any different this time?
— The HSE Alumni Awards is our key event. We have been holding it since 2007. This year, we have changed the format, because we want to increase its value for our graduates.
We are increasing the number of nominations this year. We are going to have ten nominations with an expert jury panel for each of them. The jury will include not only in-house experts (Deans and Deputy Rectors), but also well-known independent experts, such as Alena Vladimirskaya, Samira Mustafaeva, Maya Kucherskaya, Dmitry Papulin, and many others.
We believe this is important because we want our graduates to be assessed as objectively as possible.
HSE faculty and students could nominate their candidates until mid-March. Online voting began on March 25, and now everyone can still cast their vote.
The jury will then vote for their choice among the short-listed nominees.
You can cast your vote for the HSE best graduates on the Awards website. Anyone can vote until April 26.
We hope we will be able to announce the winners at the awards ceremony that will take place in the Central Atrium of Pokrovka. This year, we have chosen a challenging topic for the event—‘Harmony of Traditions, Digital Technologies, and Futuristic Projections of the Future’. We would like to bring together the historical atmosphere of the building and modernity, which is why we are going to make the most of digital technology. For instance, Marusya voice assistant—a Mail.ru flagship project—will be the co-hostess of the ceremony.
Unfortunately, we had to postpone the award ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll announce a new date of the event later.
We use the award to showcase the success of our graduates. This is very important for us. Some of the nominees are quite unusual. For instance, one of the last year’s nominees is the owner of a stud farm. This is hardly what we associate with typical HSE alum career paths!
One of this year’s awards is ‘Person of Art’, which will be given to people working in the art industry. Another nomination category is ‘International Leadership’, which will be awarded to international graduates of HSE who have done a lot to promote our university abroad.
This year, for the first time we will award someone in the ‘Community Builder’ nomination. This award will be given to people who contribute to the development of the alumni community. The winner may be an employee, a teacher, a student, a graduate, or a friend of HSE University who has helped us establish and maintain the alumni community. This person is a kind of ambassador of HSE University to its graduates. We believe it is crucial to help graduates stay connected with our university.