Interaction between the University and Its Alumni: Best International Practices and Prospects for Russian Universities was a seminar recently held at HSE. Comments are by HSE’s Director for Student and Alumni Relations, Tatiana Dubova.
— Who was the seminar intended for and who attended?
— The seminar was intended for university staff responsible for alumni relations. In addition to HSE faculties and campuses, the seminar was attended by representatives of some twenty Russian universities, including five federal-level public universities and a few private ones, such as the New Economic School, the European University in St. Petersburg, and the Russian New University.
One can see by looking at the attendance list that Russia's leading universities are concerned with building long-term relationships with alumni.
— What was the purpose of the seminar?
— Most Russian universities are just starting to create communities of alumni involved in the life of their alma mater. Our idea was to help them by offering an overview of existing approaches to building alumni communities worldwide.
— What were some of the things discussed at the seminar?
— The seminar covered a wide range of approaches to establishing long-term relationships with alumni, such as setting up Alumni Associations, involving alumni in volunteer-based and charitable projects, facilitating alumni meetings, and special events. Also, we are encouraging the establishment of a shared alumni database and finding effective means of communication between alumni and the university administration.
On day one, we explained some of the ways we reach out to HSE's alumni. Daria Drozhzhina and Ivan Gruzdev of HSE's Centre for Internal Monitoringpresented their findings after surveying alumni and employers. The Head of HSE's Career Development Centre, Olga Borisova, spoke about alumni involvement as employers and providers of internship and practical training opportunities for students. We had a presentation of HSE's Vishka Family social network, which is currently in test mode, and will soon be launched; this led to a lively discussion. At the end of day one, seminar participants attended a charity event held by ICEF Outreach, a student organisation at HSE ICEF founded by HSE graduate Maya Klisho.
The next day featured a master class by international expert, trainer and consultant Serge Sych, chairman of INTAL, an international alumni relations group. Serge has successfully built, from scratch, a well-functioning alumni relations system at the the Central European University. He invited the participants to consider setting up a Russian association of alumni relations and fundraising professionals, which could become part of a similar international network. The audience supported the idea and asked the Higher School of Economics to take the initiative of setting up such an association in Russia.
— What are the main challenges of alumni relations at HSE?
— The role of alumni relations officer emerged in the Anglo-Saxon educational system more than a century ago, while our university has yet to develop a tradition of consistent interaction with alumni. Our centre's main objective is to maintain this part of HSE's shared history, primarily through setting up a support system and promoting the best practices available.
— In your opinion, what are the prospects for building an alumni relations system at HSE?
— We have been working to promote a recently established HSE Alumni Association and are preparing a joint project with VTB24 Bank to issue co-branded cards. Also, we have been discussing a loyalty program with alumni willing to offer preferential treatment in their companies for members of the association. In turn, HSE is prepared to offer continuing education discounts to the association members. We have many other plans as well, but consistency and continuity are of key importance.
One of the things we now understand is that we should start building alumni relations in advance, while the future alumni are still undergraduates – and perhaps even earlier, while they are our prospective students. We have facilitated three alumni get-togethers in Gorky Park, and last year Gorky Park was chosen as the venue of HSE's festival - everyone seemed to like the format of the event. This year, we are planning to start yet another tradition by organizing a HSE-wide graduation ceremony.
Ludmila Mezentseva, HSE News Service