In our increasingly globalized world, people are more mobile than ever. While this is an exciting phenomenon, it can make it hard for a college or university to keep track of their alumni. We recently sat down with Sarah Robinson, Vice President of Advancement at Husson University, to talk about this challenge, and discuss how Husson is using Steppingblocks and Graduate Insights to leverage their alumni data.
In collaboration with Institutional Research and Career Services, the Advancement team at Husson University purchased Steppingblocks with the primary goal of keeping track of their alumni. “Truly, keeping track of our alumni is probably the hardest thing that’s out there… people are so mobile these days. So, that’s probably our number one piece that we’re trying to do.” This is a common goal for many Steppingblocks partners and users, as it is increasingly difficult to maintain accurate alumni records. With Graduate Insights, partners like Husson University are able to discover the recent data on their graduates, and then use that data to answer their important questions.
One of the biggest questions the Advancement and Institutional Research teams at Husson have sought to answer is whether or not Husson delivers on their promise to its students. “We’re being asked more and more to prove that we’re delivering on our promise of a professional education that allows our graduates to be job-ready day one.” With Graduate Insights, they can collect their alumni outcomes and cross-reference this data with their own self-reported alumni surveys. “We need to have as much data as we can on where our graduates are so that we can report as a whole and attract additional students.”
As for Career Services, the data allows the team to “work smarter.” With Graduate Insights, folks in career services can reach out individually to a graduate at a particular company or in a particular field, and ask them if they’d be open to connecting with current students.
After exploring their alumni outcomes, Sarah and her team leveraged the data to diversify the alumni involvement on their campus. “I recently used Steppingblocks to pull individuals who were either the owner or the president or the senior vice president or the vice president of their respective companies because our board had some openings.” Sarah explained they were looking to fill these seats based on several metrics, such as diversity, location, and sector. “I was able to use data to help identify individuals… and to have a starting point for a list that our governance board could then vet, and we’ve filled 3 or 4 slots on our board.”
Steppingblocks also helped Husson’s Advancement team find and meet alumni where they are, and strategically develop engaging, in-person programming. “Many people want to be involved, but we got to make it easy for them.” After discovering that several Husson alumni work at Jotul, a well-known wood-stove company, Sarah and her team collaborated with their Husson alumni at the company to host an event. The event was a huge success, drawing not only Husson/Jutol alumni, but also other local Husson alumni who were interested in learning more about how those famous Jotul wood stoves are made.
Sarah’s advice for others looking to leverage graduate outcomes data? Collaborate across campus, manage the data, prioritize personal relationships, and storytelling trumps all. Click here to download the eBook.
Collaborate Across Campus
Higher education is under more and more pressure to demonstrate their value and outcomes, and many departments across campus are not immune. With alumni data, academic institutions can not only learn about their graduates, but use that information to help current and prospective student outcomes. Sarah shared, “You’re probably not the only department that needs data about alumni. So seek out those partners.”
Manage the data
Having access to billions of data points can be exciting, but also overwhelming. For this reason, Sarah says, being able to effectively manage data is key. “We’re in an increasingly data-driven world, and it can be possible to become immobilized because of the amount of data that’s out there.” By creating clear goals for collecting and exploring data, higher education professionals can effectively leverage the data without getting lost in it.
Prioritize personal relationships
Data is important, but for alumni relations and advancement practitioners, personal relationships are key. “Nothing beats the fact that you’re out there, meeting someone, talking with them, and really learning what you need to know.” Data is an amazing tool for discovering your alumni, but it is critical to then conduct the outreach, and engage your graduates on a personal level. “Nothing ever beats building those personal relationships and getting to know people.”
Data is important, Storytelling trumps all
Sarah emphasizes that data is critical, but the efforts can’t stop there. In engaging alumni and potential donors, it is crucial to share the stories of current students. “There are a lot of people that are data-driven, but there are a lot more people out there that want to hear the impact, that want to hear the story.” Sarah tells a story of a student who shared her story with their Women’s Philanthropy Council. The student shared about their experience going from experiencing homelessness as a teenager, to preparing to graduate from Husson and head to medical school. “The impact of her getting up and telling her story… I could have talked about the 44% Pell Grant eligible until I was blue in the face, and it wouldn’t have motivated one person in that room compared to her telling her story.”
How are you leveraging alumni data?
Data is powerful tool in tracking an increasingly mobile alumni population, reporting graduate outcomes, developing effective alumni engagement strategies, and telling impactful stories. With data, higher education can demonstrate the value they have on the lives of students and our global workforce.
Interested in how you could leverage Steppingblocks? Explore now.