An Interview with the Director of Alumni Relations

FDU Magazinerecently asked Stephen Kimmons, who joined Fairleigh Dickinson University in September as the director of alumni relations, to update alumni on the changes being implemented in the Office of Alumni Relations and their potential benefits for the alumni community.

What’s new in the Office of Alumni Relations?

You can expect great things from this office in the months and years to come.

In January, we hired Michelle Schleibaum as the assistant director of alumni relations. She joins Casey Egan, associate director of alumni relations; Madelyn Fine, administrative assistant; and myself. Together, we are instilling a renewed spirit within FDU’s alumni programs and providing new direction for programming and new avenues for alumni involvement. Our staff is strong, and you can expect great things from this office in the months and years to come.

Tell us specifically what alumni have to look forward to?

Our goal is to provide a comprehensive menu of alumni activities, including social and service opportunities, both on and off campus. (Among the recent or current activities include two receptions in Florida, a golf tournament, Alumni Club organizational meetings and a gathering of class volunteers for Alumni Weekend 2004.) The profile of FDU alumni is extremely diverse, and we must cater to their many interests. Casey will concentrate on our off-campus and constituency programming and will coordinate the creation of a nationwide network of Alumni Clubs as well as special interest groups. Michelle will head our on-campus programming, which includes Alumni Weekend, Homecoming, alumni athletics events and the Student-Alumni Association. By specializing in this manner, we anticipate being of better service to our alumni.

What new programs will be offered?

The success of these clubs will lie heavily on the strength of local volunteer leaders.

Probably the most visible new program will be our regional Alumni Clubs. We are currently doing demographic research to identify target areas based on population density. Once we have a list, we’ll put the areas into priority order, with the intent of organizing four clubs per year. The success of these clubs will lie heavily on the strength of local volunteer leaders, making the identification and training process critical to our success. Alumni Club activities will range from social events to cultural, sporting and service activities. By service, I mean activities that benefit the University and its alumni, like Network Nights or Freshman Sendoff Parties.

A Network Night is designed to bring alumni from a specific region together with current students who live and/or would like to find employment in that same region. These programs reflect the nationwide trend of alumni interest in career service-related events.

To help bring Fairleigh Dickinson Alumni events to your area, contact Casey Egan at 201-692-7007 or casey@fdu.edu. We are especially looking for volunteers from Middlesex, Monmouth, Union, Mercer, Altantic, Cape May and Ocean counties in New Jersey and from Orange and Rockland counties in New York.

Network Nights, organized in collaboration with the Office of Career Management, are powerful forums that connect our alumni and students, while offering invaluable support for people looking to start their careers. Just think of the opportunity for a current student seeking employment in Washington, Philadelphia and New York to actually be able to attend a Network Night in each of those cities on consecutive nights! Inevitably, alumni will see this as an opportunity to network among themselves as well.

I also mentioned Freshman Sendoff Parties. This is a meaningful way for alumni — in addition to serving as admissions ambassadors — to be involved in the admissions process. What better welcome for incoming freshmen and their parents than a party in their honor hosted by alumni from their local area? As our Alumni Club program expands, so will our Network Night and Freshman Sendoff Party programs.

“Horizons” is a unique and very fulfilling way for alumni to give back to the University.

There will be two significant additions to our on-campus alumni program. The first is a collaborative effort with the Office of Career Management called “Horizons.” This program will feature alumni career panels on both campuses and will target those career fields of greatest interest to the students on each campus. The Office of Career Management will help identify the most popular career choices and advertise the program among the students. Three or four alumni will be asked to serve as panelists for each program of career-specific information. It’s a unique and very fulfilling way for alumni to give back to the University.

We also will be organizing a Student-Alumni Association on each campus to provide a connection between alumni and current students driven, we hope, from the students’ perspective. These organizations will help us increase on-campus awareness of life after graduation and the importance of staying connected with one’s alma mater.

How will you expand current programs?

We plan to build on some successful reunions planned by the Alumni Association Board of Governors a few years back, and create a yearly Alumni Weekend program. Beginning in 2004, we will gather our “celebrated classes” (those with anniversaries of five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 years and beyond), and of course anyone else who wants to attend, for an on-campus celebration! We’ll start with a combined campus event at the College at Florham in 2004, then move it to the Metropolitan Campus in 2005 and continue to alternate each year. That way, if your fifth reunion is in Madison, your 10th will be in Teaneck, and so on. Alumni Weekend will recognize more than class affiliation and will provide the opportunity to gather by other associations and affinities as well — sports teams, student organizations, etc.

We also hope to rejuvenate our Homecoming Weekend, held in the fall, with activities that will appeal to all alumni. In addition to athletics events, we will add other special activities to round out the program. Reunions for our dental and Wroxton alumni during Homecoming 2003 are already being discussed.

For information or to volunteer for your class reunion committee, contact Michelle Schleibaum at 201-692-7005 or michelle_schleibaum@fdu.edu.

We anticipate that Alumni Weekend and Homecoming will serve as our on-campus anchors. Each provides a great opportunity for the University to welcome its alumni back to campus, to inform them and to entertain them. They will be the kind of events that people look forward to each year.

Our alumni athletics program is very strong now, but it too can be expanded. Also, programs vary greatly from sport to sport and from coach to coach. Common guidelines will help us to give equal treatment to every group and will make it easier for new alumni sports programs to be added.

We have three constituent chapters at the moment — the Young Alumni, the Dental Alumni and the Korean Alumni — but we’re interested in expansion. Past efforts were perhaps too narrow in scope. We’ll be looking into forming new groups based on the broader approach of like interests or career fields.

This is probably a good time to mention the Alumni Association Board of Governors. Our plan to expand the overall program will provide us with multiple layers of alumni volunteers, and will allow for the board to do its primary job of advising the University on all matters concerning alumni and alumni programming. Expanded programming will allow more alumni to become involved on other levels and will create a feeder system for board membership.

Any new services planned for alumni?

We need to bring the alumni Web page (www.fdu.edu/alumni/) up-to-date and make it more user-friendly. There is so much potential there, and it can provide such a wealth of information if it is maintained regularly. In time, everything you could ever want to know about your FDU alumni program will be listed in some way on our Web page.

We want to help alumni reconnect with each other ... If we can help make that happen, we are performing a great service for our alumni.

I also want to pledge an increase in some basic services. For example, we want to help alumni reconnect with each other so we will now be more open about sharing alumni addresses, provided that we can confirm the request is being made by an alumnus and that no restriction has been placed on contact with the alumnus being sought. Most of our calls along these lines are alumni trying to track down old friends — to invite them to weddings, to reconnect after many years, etc. If we can help make that happen, we are performing a great service for our alumni.

Do alumni have to live close to FDU to stay close to their alma mater?

The combination of a rejuvenated alumni Web page and the creation of a network of Alumni Clubs in the coming years answers that question with a resounding “no.” We view alumni as a global community and will do our best to reach them — whether it’s on campus, at an Alumni Club event or through the Internet.

How can alumni get involved?

The easiest thing to do is to pick up the phone and give us a call (201-692-7013) or e-mail me (kimmons@fdu.edu).

The easiest thing to do is to pick up the phone and give us a call (201-692-7013) or e-mail me (kimmons@fdu.edu). Some programs are up and running while others will develop over time. We will do our best to match you with the area or activity that interests you most.

It’s a great feeling to know you have made your alma mater a better place. It also pays off in a different way. If you’ve helped to make your alma mater a better place, you’ve increased the value of your own degree.

So volunteer for your class reunion committee or help us start a regional club in your area. Future communication will provide information about participating in other programs. We’re always looking for good people! Involved alumni will help us transform this program into something we can all be proud of!

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