UD initiatives and goals for engagement
The University of Dallas is looking to increase alumni engagement. With the relatively new and ambitious leadership of President Jonathan Sanford, UD is hoping alumni can help further its mission.
“We want our reputation to be more widely known, and that will be beneficial to graduating students, to attracting prospective students who are going to be really good fits here, and a host of other things,” said Sanford.
The National Alumni Board is an alumni organization for UD that is trying to assist in this effort. Under the leadership of Daniel Milligan, there has been a renewed effort to engage class agents and regional representatives for each one of UD’s class years to build more communication and awareness of what’s happening at the university.
Kris Muñoz Vetter, vice president for development and university relations, said: “There have been years where people didn’t feel as aware of what was going on on campus (that’s kind of been a consistent theme). So [the National Alumni Board is trying] to enhance communications with our alumni.”
UD is also looking to increase alumni donations. According to Vetter, the biggest priority is creating a culture of philanthropy through engagement. In the last year, almost 900 alumni came to Groundhog and over 1000 signed up for alumni family weekend.
“[These are] ways for them to reconnect with what they felt really formed them as professionals and as family members. Reconnecting with their alma mater I think is the first place that we start,” said Vetter.
Alumni business tents were also set up during alumni family weekend. A lot of our alumni had small companies or small businesses that they were looking to showcase.
Vetter said: “It’s just a neat way to feature the cool things that our alumni are doing and also it’s helpful to them. It helps encourage their homegrown businesses and in some cases their larger businesses. So the intent is really engagement. Alumni have these great businesses. It’s part of building community within the alumni.”
This last year, UD launched the Forging our Future initiative. The goal is to increase annual Constantin alum participation — giving at any level to the university on an annual basis to 25% of Constantin alumni by 2025. A generous alumni couple has incentivized alumni participation by challenging them to help UD reach its goal.
Vetter said: “Right now we are in our first year of kind of moving that towards 25%. Our goal is to get to about 17.5% this year [by May 31] which would be a wonderful step up. We would love to reach 2000 Constantin alumni donors — which represents almost 18% of our alumni community [by May 31]. And our goal is to get to at least 25% giving consistently on an annual basis by 2025.”
The initiative was launched in response to alumni concerns — one of them being that the university only reaches out to alumni to get donations and the other being that the university only cares about alums who can give large donations.
Vetter said: “It’s just not true. Every cent helps the university flourish. Every cent helps increase our operating support for the university and given that so much of our operating revenue is used for scholarship support for students, it’s an important way to ensure that we can attract and retain the best students — the students that are really eager and hungry for a UD education.”
UD is also looking to network more effectively, and it is one of the top initiatives Sanford has given the development and university relations team.
Vetter said: “Philanthropy is founded on relationships. So the alumni that are trying to challenge us to increase overall alumni participation — their giving is going towards improving our data infrastructure so that we can reconnect [our alumni] and get them reengaged with the university. And that support can be through hosting internships and creating [a] strong alumni network. So that is certainly a top priority for us over the next 5 to 10 years.”
When asked why alumni donations are important, Vetter said: “I think alumni donations to the school say a lot. They say to others that the very people that benefited from their education believe in the education so much that they’re going to invest in it even beyond receiving a diploma. It’s seen as a marker of the people who benefited the most from their education, [and that] they see the value in investing in the university. So it’s just a powerful message.”
UD is also looking to help students network with alumni more effectively. To date, the office of personal career development has been focused for the most part on internships and opportunities for students beyond purely alumni connections.
“However,” said Vetter, “now alumni relations and the office of personal career development are working together and specifically focused on initiatives [that include] areas of interest to our students and trying to build that connection with key alums that are successful and providing those kinds of not just mentoring conversations but also just abilities to be aware of, hear from them how they navigated their careers. And that’s a relatively new initiative and we certainly want to develop that much more in the coming years.”
UD also wants to focus on attracting students to the opportunities that UD provides.
Sanford said, “We spend much less on [marketing] than most other universities. It’s part of my strategic planning process to spend more as it comes in because of an investment that we’ve made in this area that I think will benefit the whole university – [raising] $100 million to build new buildings. And how am I going to do that without attracting more people and raising excitement about just how excellent we really are? If you don’t let people know what you’re doing, then they don’t have the opportunity to come on board your mission.”
When asked why it is important to have a robust community of graduates, Vetter said: “There’s so many reasons. I think those individuals are the best advocates for others from a recruitment perspective. They can go out and share that this is an institution you should think about. They’re also mission aligned. As an alumnus of the university you know this institution and you know how to navigate this institution and how best to connect to a broader audience and take a liberal education and do so many things with it.”
UD is proud of its alums and grateful for any and all support that is given.
Vetter said: “I think you can’t underestimate the importance of a robust alumni network for the University of Dallas. It is something that I know Dr. Sanford feels very strongly about and has certainly charged our team to focus on engagement first. How do we engage our alumni in the life of the university? That [can be in] so many ways — that’s not just treasure. It can be time, talent, or treasure. And we really would love to see our alumni know and be a part of the life of the university and even enrich it more for our students.”