It’s graduation season! How do I know? Because my entire social newsfeed is filled with pictures of the graduating student leaders we’ve connected with over the past four years.
A challenge every student activities department faces this time of year is the reminder that their student leaders turn over every two to four years. All the leadership and institution knowledge the educators imparted on their graduating seniors will have to be re-taught next year to a new group.
Educators know, from the beginning, that at some point their little cubs will grow up and move on. That’s the point of college, and as much as we’d like to keep the best student leaders year after year, we also want to see them graduate and make a positive impact in the world.
Graduation, however, doesn’t have to be the end of the relationship between a student leader and his/her student organization. In fact, if positioned correctly, it could be the start of a lifelong relationship of advisory and mentorship between the graduated senior and his/her student organization. Cultivating such a relationship with your alumni can provide three positive outcomes:
1) Sustained Institutional Knowledge – All the knowledge from experience the graduated senior learned won’t go to waste and instead can be used as a pool for new leaders to pull from.
2) Reduced Burden on Club/Org Advisors – With the larger pool of resources for a new leader to tap into it, the burden of answering all the questions of new leaders doesn’t have to fall on the club/org advisor and instead can be fielded by graduated seniors.
3) Financial Support – Eventually, graduated seniors will start making money…eventually. And when that time comes, and they are solicited for donations by their Alma Mater, there is a strong chance that they will request their donation be restricted to use to help either their specific club/organization or student activities as a whole.
Setting up an advisor system for your graduated seniors can be a lot less stressful than you think. Here are four ways you could start this year with minimal effort:
1) Private Facebook Group – While all the buzz is about Snapchat, Yik Yak and the soon-to-be new social networking site, Facebook still remains top of the list for college students, according to Pew Research. Setting up a private group on Facebook will allow you to screen who you let in, as well as block outsiders from seeing the conversations. By doing so, your current leaders will have a private space to engage in candid conversations with your graduated leaders.
2) Alumni Photo Wall – At the end of the year, take a photo of the leadership team. Frame the photo with an additional note listed each person, position, and contact info. This way, your current leaders can use the wall to reach out to past people who held the same leadership position. As a bonus, over time, the photo wall will act as a living memorial to the history of the organization.
3) Yearly Alumni Event – Once a year, attach an Alumni element to an event you are already hosting on campus. My old programming board used their yearly Battle of the Bands to bring back Alumni as judges. We socialized with other Alumni, shared experiences with the new leaders, and we were an active part of the event.
4) Google Group – Similar to the Private Facebook, except a Google Group is done through email and Google’s platform acting much like an email list serve.
As another group of our student leaders graduates, use the suggestions above to reframe this time of year from the end of a relationship to the start, because your graduated leaders can be an invaluable resource for many years to come.