From the Spring 2012 Oregon Stater
By Scott Greenwood, executive director, OSUAA
Associate vice president for alumni relations
We hear them every day – this toothpaste will make your teeth whiter; this product will make your clothes cleaner; if you just buy this product you will achieve untold popularity. Political candidates of all parties make them – telling us how much better things will be if we simply vote for them. And we sometimes hear them from our institutions of higher learning.
All of these promises can make a person tired!
I don’t really believe that if I buy a certain product, I will hear a snappy jingle and all my troubles will drift away – but sometimes I like the hope associated with such promises. As a hopeful person I want to see the best in people and I want the best from the products I buy, the candidates I support and the institutions in which I believe. But how often do we get to check back and see if people, products and institutions have delivered on their promises?
While we are not perfect at Oregon State, I do think it is part of our institutional personality to try to be authentic about what we can deliver, and I think we do a good job of delivering most of the time. I answer to the OSU Alumni Association Board of Directors and to OSU President Ed Ray, and I assure you: They set clear goals and expect me and the alumni association staff to achieve them. It’s refreshing to work for people who don’t make extravagant promises simply to get people to “buy in” to the latest hype, but rather focus on ambitious, real-world and achievable objectives. Your alumni association wants to do the same.
Although one might not realize this sometimes because of the way we talk about what we do, alumni work is not all that complicated. We say it best in our mission statement, which outlines our work as ” … engaging alumni and friends in the life, promotion and advancement of the university.” We’re supposed to make sure you know what is happening at your alma mater, provide you with ways to reconnect to OSU that appeal to you, and listen to you about what we can do to grow your sense of pride in your degree as well as – yes, we’re being honest here so I’ll say it – your willingness to donate your time and your treasure in support of this place.
Really pretty simple. The part that’s increasingly complicated is you, the alumni population.
We are not all alike (thankfully). We bring a diversity of experiences, desires and interests to our attachment to Oregon State – and that is where our job at the alumni association gets really tough. What might appeal to an alumnus from the class of 1928 (and yes we have alumni with us from that class year) can differ quite a bit from what appeals to a December 2011 graduate. A program suite designed to serve alumni in Pendleton might not have the same appeal for alumni in Los Angeles. An alumnus preparing for retirement might want the alumni association to offer more travel programs while an alumnus seeking a new job might be hoping for more career mentoring. We have alumni who live in every US state and in nations ranging from Algeria to Zimbabwe, we have alumni who graduated 84 years ago and we have alumni who graduated only a few months ago. Our alumni live in big cities, small towns, high rises and on large farms. They represent every possible race, gender and sexual orientation.
Our job is to try and figure out how to serve you if you are just starting a family and live in Boise, Idaho, if you have retired to Scottsdale, Ariz., or if you are beginning your engineering career in Nigeria. Each of you represents a unique set of needs, wants and desires – with (here I go hoping again) a universal pride in your Oregon State connection.
So how do we handle this diversity of needs and desires as an alumni association? We make a commitment – yes, a promise – to develop programs to serve alumni no matter where you work, live or play.
As I write this, my staff and I are figuring out how to develop effective alumni networks that serve the largest markets where Beavers live, and how we can also serve Beavers in smaller places we might miss. We’re gathering alumni volunteers of all ages and geographies to help our staff develop a range of activities to attract and serve you. We are aggressively pursuing a host of programs catering to the varying needs of our alumni, including looking at some old traditions, like reunions, in new ways. We have realigned our staff responsibilities to meet these new challenges and we have added staff to make sure we are serving our regional networks, our career network and mentoring program and our increasing use of social media to better serve you.
In the coming months I ask you to hold us accountable – watch for programs that might be offered close to you if you are in areas where we have a lot of alumni; visit and like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/oregonstatealum, and check out www.osualum.com while you’re at it. Get involved in some of the activities we offer. Join our career network when it launches in the next few months. If you don’t find something that appeals to you, or if you have ideas about what else we might do, let me know how we can better serve you by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here comes a promise: I’ll read every email you send. If I’m deluged with responses (a problem I’d love to have) I might not be able to respond to each one personally, but I’ll do my best to address every suggestion and report back to you in my next Director’s Cut in the fall Stater.
A simpler way for me to say all this is that I’m asking you to look for ways to get involved and then – if there are ways we can make that easier and more attractive for you – let us know.
It’s a bit daunting to think of reshaping our association to meet the needs of our ever-changing alumni population, but I can assure you that your team at the alumni association is up to it, because we are excited to be at place where the general marching orders are to size up the challenge, accept it and get to work, and we are honored to serve people who were taught to do exactly that at this university we all hold dear.