Building relationships with alumni is pivotal to the holistic growth and development of the students and the institution in the ever-changing sphere of education and industry. Many aspects of the institution could be improved with the experience of the seasoned alumni. Alumni are the threads in an institution’s rich tapestry, which intricately weaves into many facets and binds them together. The Student Alumni Relationship Cell (SARC) is such an entity that can be a perfect medium to bring the young minds of the students and the alumni together. Focusing solely on the development and nurturing of the graduates, this association could enhance the students’ academic, social, personal, and professional frontiers. The alumni could steer the students in the right direction, from mentoring to internships and fundraising to community services. In this article, let’s understand the concept of SARC and how it can be utilized in fulfilling various aspects of an institution.
What is SARC?
Every institution aspires to keep alumni in the loop and engage their graduates with various activities. However, the institution’s faculty are burdened with other commitments and cannot devote much time. That’s where the Student Alumni Relationship Cell or SARC steps in. Students brimming with energy and enthusiasm can be recruited to form an informal committee to coordinate with the alumni about mentoring, project guidance, internships, and many other things! The seasoned faculty alumni liaisons can supervise student coordinators and guide the former in interacting with the alumni, conducting meaningful mentorship programs, and hosting events without any logistical issues. This reduces the faculty’s pressure, and the students can understand how the real world functions. Also, the alumni and the students can bridge the gap between them and form a relationship!
Objectives of SARC
The student committee can help the alumni with objectives such as:
The committee can be entrusted with the task of alumni database building. Recruited students can scour through the alumni channels, pages, and networking circles in social media to build a robust, credible database that can be used by the institution for many purposes.
SARC can play an important role in connecting and interacting with the alumni regarding various aspects. They can liaise under the supervision of the presiding alumni officer to invite the alumni to events, mentoring sessions, technical seminars/workshops, and much more!
Managing Engagement Activities
Alumni engagement activities are pivotal to an institution’s growth and sustainability. SARC can plan and manage many activities by coordinating with the alumni such as project guidance programs.
Branding the Alumni
Promotional campaigns have become integral to any event being organized. SARC can be tasked with curating information and building the success stories of the alumni to gain traction.
The student committee can shoulder the following responsibilities:
- They can keep alumni in the loop by constantly communicating to them the happenings at their alma mater.
- Create engaging content like success stories, interviews, and milestones of the alma mater on social media platforms to gain the alumni’s interest and attention.
- Supervising alumni-oriented events like reunions, homecomings, and other alumni activities held on the premises.
- Curate, manage and update alumni database, portals, alumni-related social media pages, and groups
- Interacting and building relationships with senior alumni such as vagabonds and captains.
Structure of SARC
A team of 12 to 14 students can be recruited for diverse roles under various teams. Give designations to the members of the team. For instance, final-year students can be Team Leads, pre-final and mid-year students can be the Coordinators, freshers can be the Members.
Under the Alumni Office’s guidance the SARC can be divided into 3 teams:
- Alumni Relationship Team consisting of 5 members tasked with the responsibility of building alumni relationships through emails and calls, helping alumni with their needs, etc.
- Operations Team made up of 6 students overseeing the alumni portal and database, inventory, and event management.
- Promotions Team of 5 members covering promotional aspects such as PR and digital marketing, writing content for social media, and graphic designing.
Members can be promoted based on their performance as the coordinators and team lead. It is recommended not to appoint anyone as president/secretary to avoid hierarchy. Every student must report to the alumni office.
Select two students from each branch such that one is from the second year and the other from the third. Conduct interviews and recruit candidates based on their skills, interests, and academic performance. Organize induction programs, and brand SARC on the social media pages and newsletters of the institution. Having brainstorming sessions and informal evening meetings every week about Alumni Engagement Programs.
Let’s look into some of the aspects that SARC can be instrumental in –
Personalized Mentoring Programs
As an institution, coordinate with SARC to create a Student Guidance Programme (SGP) where you can invite younger alumni such as millennials (21-25-year-old alumni) and vagabonds (26-34-year-old alumni) to take charge. SARC can be tasked with the work of identifying the mentors who can be suited best to teach their juniors and bring them to it. As students, they can grab the pulse of their peers easily and empathize with them. Organize Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and invite students to join as mentees. You can also encourage millennials who have graduated recently to join as well.
Mentoring is a two-way street that benefits the alumni too. Vagabonds can strengthen their profile as mentors at a very young age which many won’t bother to start until they reach 50! Mentoring by these alumni groups can be very relevant as they strive to stay up to date with current industry trends and insights.
Project Guidance and Evaluation
For students in the ultimate and penultimate years of graduation, the prospect of industrial projects can be exciting and frightening. However, the guidance they generally receive may not be up to the mark and as a result, their projects may not turn out to be industry-relevant. The student committee can coordinate with the alumni in establishing Student Project Guides (SPGs) where the alumni can help the students from ground zero i.e. choosing a topic, collecting primary and secondary information, presentations, renderings of the models, and technical support. Divide the students into small groups and assign millennials and captains (35-54-year-old alumni) as mentors. The alumni don’t have to handhold the students, only some amount of supervision is enough. The duration could be 4 to 5 months of the final year of the graduation.
Student Project Loans can be devised to fund deserving projects. Design an extensive program with details such as what projects are to be funded, choosing the project, and mentoring the students. You will be doling out soft loans; if the projects are successful the donor alumni can get returns. Mention that students will have to pay back once they’re done learning.
Internships are a great way for students and recently graduated alumni to experience how the cutthroat corporate world functions. As an institution, you don’t have to go to great lengths to secure internships for your students when you have two great weapons at your disposal – the alumni portal and the never-ending horizon of alumni. Alumni with relevant experience such as vagabonds and captains (35-54 year old alumni) if leveraged appropriately, can provide students with promising internships. You can encourage SARC to open up a Career Center Page in your alumni portal where you can post the internship opportunities categorized under each field. Provide verified details about the company and the hiring personnel and match them with the alumni in your database who are in that company or field so that they can refer the deserving candidate to the job.
Also, provide a customized Q&A portal where the students and millennials can post questions and tag the alumni who can put the students’ minds at ease by answering them. The alumni can also guide students on resume building, interviews, group discussions, and required skills to secure internships.
Raising funds for great causes such as Scholarships, Breakfast Programs, etc is a must to ensure the betterment of students hailing from underprivileged backgrounds. Create fundraising campaigns such as the Student Scholarship Programme (SSP) and encourage students to apply. Leverage students in the SARC to conduct due diligence and background checks to ensure that deserving candidates are applying. Encourage students to curate fundraising campaigns in such a way that it hits the target audience such as captains and patriarchs (54 and above year old alumni) in the sweet spot. Create compelling and genuine student testimonials to meet the corpus targets. Offer interest-free loans to the students and assure them that the money they pay back will go into the corpus which will help others as it helped them.
SARC can also play a pivotal role in generating Sponsorships for Fests & Events. Leveraging students is one of the best and recommended practices for interacting with the alumni. Forming a committee streamlines the processes and procedures and the periodic supervision of the faculty alumni coordinators will strengthen the students’ resolve in the same. Recognising best SARC performers every quarter of the academic year and awarding them appropriately can be extremely motivating. Forging connections and blossoming friendships is one of the cornerstones that every institution must follow in this dynamic realm of education where everything is so constantly evolving and engaging alumni is a great way to achieve that!