Update from Alumni Engagement and Development Working Group

Chair: Gil Kemp, Board of Managers
Sabrina Martinez, Alumni Council, Chairs the Engagement Task Force

Co-Conveners: Stephen Bayer, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations
Nancy Nicely, Vice President for Communications and Public Relations

We divided our work into two task forces, one on alumni engagement and the other on development. This split came from the recognition that development is one form of engagement with alumni and needs to be examined in the context of other forms of alumni engagement, but it should neither dominate the ways we engage alumni nor stop with alumni.

The Engagement Task Force began by establishing what we think are some fundamental questions and have begun to answer or lay out strategies for answering them. They include:

  • We know how much we value and need alumni, wanting for example to connect current students with the full breadth of talent and accomplishment among our alumni. But we also recognize the importance of thinking from the perspective of alumni—we should understand why students would want to engage with Swarthmore College after they graduate.
  • What kinds of engagement opportunities should we be facilitating and how do we understand when we’ve been successful?
  • We have begun a deep investigation of the kinds of interactions we currently support and will use that to help define how we might shape alumni engagement in the future. The goal is to conduct a thorough census of alumni engagement by interviewing different departments and offices on campus and asking about their experiences and programs that engage alumni. We have a few preliminary thoughts about our own hopes for future engagement, and we will look to the census, these preliminary thoughts, and information from all other members of the community, most notably alumni through Alumni Council, to shape our work through the semester.
  • We also plan to engage in benchmarking other best engagement practices at colleges and universities; look closely at how we are (or aren’t) coordinating our engagement efforts across campus; explore lifelong learning options; and imagine more effective ways to encourage and facilitate effective alumni connections to other alumni, to parents, to students, and to faculty.

The Development Task Force began its work with a conversation about the numerous ways in which philanthropy both exemplifies and reinforces many of the core values of our culture. Thanks to the contributions of our alumni, parents, and friends of the College and their enduring support of our renowned faculty and our rigorous academic program, we are able to provide a world-class education to our students. We are also able to make a Swarthmore education accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. Generous investments in the College by alumni, parents, and friends also allow us to provide a modern physical campus and residential facilities that facilitate learning and community-building in the 21st century.

As the Task Force began its work, it reviewed the current structure of the development office and also examined some of what we know to be best practices in development. Looking ahead, the Task Force will consider strategies to better understand our community’s philanthropic perspectives, habits, and preferences. Undoubtedly the work of the two task forces will intersect as alumni who are engaged are more likely to contribute time, energy, and resources and experience a deeper connection to the College.