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UC Magazine

UC's evolving Alumni Association seeks support

by Keith Stichtenoth, associate executive director

Ask anyone what an alumni association does, and you may hear about homecomings, reunions and tailgating. For the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association, those things are true, but there is so much more.

"UC has more than 230,000 alumni, and it's a tremendously diverse group," says Myron Hughes, Bus '86, executive director of the UC Alumni Association. "There are countless ways they can be involved with UC. It could be with the university directly, or with current or future students, or through their places of work, or the vast network of fellow University of Cincinnati alums.

"No matter who they are, everyone stands to gain from this engagement and vibrant interaction; there is no downside. It stimulates the whole UC family, as well as the broader community. It delivers tangible and intangible benefits. It enables the university to do more. It enhances the equity of all our UC degrees.

"That's what we're all about," Hughes says. "That's what makes the UC Alumni Association special and indispensable --and something worth supporting." Hughes and the organization's volunteer Board of Governors are overseeing a strategic transformation that will allow the Alumni Association to better meet the changing needs of students and alumni, as well as the evolving university itself.

Included is a redefined, philanthropic model of Alumni Association membership. Different levels of engagement with the university and Alumni Association will lead to different tiers of benefits and opportunities. Watch for more information about membership in the near future.

"We believe we have a strong story to tell and a truly unique role to play," Hughes says. "If you agree it's important for UC to have a vibrant alumni association, then we encourage your support and active engagement."

The association's goal-oriented approach

In its service to alumni and the university, the UC Alumni Association strives to deliver on six strategic goals:

Build a culture of collaboration and cultivate partnerships -- At its core, the UC Alumni Association is all about establishing and strengthening mutually beneficial relationships. The organization works with a vast array of UC stakeholders in a variety of ways to create the infrastructure that enables these relationships --whatever will lead to a more vibrant UC alumni community.

Develop meaningful programs and services -- The UC Alumni Association provides its constituents with many compelling reasons and opportunities to be engaged with their alma mater. According to alumni's interests, motivations and location, UC-related programs, services and events are available to facilitate this ongoing involvement.

Develop and maximize various sources of funding -- A tremendous void would exist in the UC landscape if the UC Alumni Association could not continue to do its good work and grow to meet the emerging needs of the university and its alumni. So it's important to cultivate various channels of financial support that can sustain the organization and enable it to flourish. UC is a great university, and it needs a great alumni association.

Develop and implement a comprehensive plan to market the UC Alumni Association locally, regionally, nationally and internationally -- UC is a global entity in terms of its student recruitment, scholarship, research efforts and alumni contributions to society. Consequently, the UC Alumni Association must reflect this expansive footprint. Thirty regional alumni networks across the U.S. provide a national profile, and more will be done to take UC's alumni message around the world via innovative marketing channels.

Increase staff, volunteer and alumni involvement in the community -- An essential part of UC's institutional nature is its full integration with the communities it serves. This special quality is a point of emphasis, a chance to add greater value while modeling one of the university's greatest virtues.

Develop organizational resources for volunteers and staff -- To fulfill its mission and accomplish these strategic goals, the UC Alumni Association itself must be equipped accordingly. Meeting the needs of a thriving university and more than 230,000 alumni requires a range of resources applied where they will have the most benefit.

The symmetry of a centennial

The University of Cincinnati Alumni Association was formed in 1907 when a small but passionate group of alumni started talking about the immense potential of the university, which had already gone through many changes in its history.

The group believed such grand potential could be better realized with a formalized, coordinated effort to keep alumni engaged in the life of their university. They shared their thinking with university president Charles Dabney, who greeted the idea of a UC Alumni Association with great enthusiasm.

Through its first 100 years, the UC Alumni Association carved its niche, grew in stature and found a variety of ways to benefit those it served. During its centennial year, the changing landscape of society, and especially in higher education, compelled a new period of strategic self-assessment.

Facing a second century that looked very different from its first, the UC Alumni Association leadership knew the organization must become more fully aligned with the current wants and needs of its alumni, as well as with the rapidly evolving university itself.

So, as happened 100 years earlier, a small but passionate group of alumni engaged in deep discussions about refocused strategy, a broader and stronger value proposition, and a "new" UC Alumni Association that would be more robust and sustainable as it did its critical work.

These earnest conversations soon led to purposeful action:

The thinking of the UC Alumni Association and UC Foundation staff and volunteer leadership teams, as well as university leadership, was engaged.

The process then expanded to include dozens of alumni, students, staff and friends of the university.

Previous alumni research offered valuable baseline information, while fresh perspectives were incorporated from new research conducted with alumni nationwide as well as current UC students.

The arrival of a new UC Alumni Association executive director, Myron Hughes, was assimilated.

A necessary balance was maintained between the need for thoughtful deliberation and organizational urgency.

In spring of 2008, a new strategic plan emerged, ready to lift engagement within the family of UC alumni to a new level.

Following the Bearcats

A record number of points scored. Tying the program’s 56-year-old record for having the most wins. Nippert Stadium sold out multiple times. Students camping out to get tickets. A bowl win in front 8,500 traveling UC fans. A huge boost of excitement and school pride.

In 2007, Bearcat Nation learned it’s a lot of fun having a big-time football program. With the 2008 season upon us, alumni are again rallying around their responsibility to make a difference for the team (the “12th man” effect) and their opportunity to connect with their fellow Bearcats before the game and in the stands.

At home games, campus excitement starts with the UC Alumni Association’s Bearcat Blitz in and around the Myers Alumni Center, plus corporate and group hospitality tents on Sigma Sigma Commons. Arrive early to tailgate and cheer the team during its pre-game “CATwalk” to the stadium.

For the away schedule, the UC Alumni Association’s pre-game rallies held both near and far make road trips an enticing option. And as more UC games are nationally televised, game-watch parties staged by regional alumni networks across the country are becoming a football season staple for Bearcat fans.

It’s worth remembering the words of Coach Brian Kelly as he spoke to throngs of alumni just before UC’s victory in the PapaJohns.com Bowl in December 2007: “People in Cincinnati have decided to jump on the train because, ‘If I don’t jump on, it’s going to pass me by.’ And it’s only going to get more crowded on that train.”