|January 7, 2000||Volume 7, Number 8|
Technology helps U of S keep in touch with thousands of alumni
By Robert James
Since opening its doors early last century, the University of Saskatchewan has awarded more than 100,000 degrees.
But for both students and the university, their relationship doesn't end at graduation.
The U of S goes to great lengths to keep in touch with graduates through the Alumni and Development Office and the Alumni Association.
The Association encourages and fosters a lifelong involvement of alumni with the University, keeping some 87,000 members informed about what's new at the U of S through either direct contact or the semi-annual publication, Green and White.
A 1997 survey published in the Green and White indicated a vast majority of alumni wanted to be kept aware of what's happening.
So the U of S, through the Association and the Alumni and Development Office, are aiding alumni in maintaining a campus connection.
Graduates are offered access to university programs, plus they're given group discount rates on home, auto, small business and travel insurance including access to lower credit card rates and other promotions.
Staying connected to the U of S has other rewards.
University staff will help re-unite alumni with a long lost friend or provide assistance in organizing class, group or college reunions.
Laurel Rossnagel , Associate Director of Alumni Relations says, "we strongly believe in building relationships with our alumni.
"We need their support and advocacy as volunteers, as ambassadors, as recruiters of students, as staff and faculty," Rossnagel says.
"And obviously, one of our goals in doing relationship building is to encourage their financial support," she adds.
Last year, about 6,100 alumni donated more than $750,000 to the U of S.
It's hoped, as more graduates learn what's new at the university, more will offer their support.
Today, the electronic age is making it easier to keep alumni updated and involved in the U of S, while helping the university keep track of graduates who are literally spread around the globe.
Rossnagel finds, "with 1-800 numbers and fax machines, websites and e-mails, a good portion of our interaction with alumni is coming in that form.
"It allows us a much easier means to communicate and it costs us virtually nothing."
Despite the benefits technology is providing, the challenge remains not to overload alumni with too much information.
That's where a new database called U-Friend is proving a key component.
"U-Friend lets us keep track of the kind of things that our alumni are interested in or wish to be involved in with the University, " explains Rossnagel.
"If former students attend events, bought university products, if they travelled with us or joined a branch, we can record that.
"It enables us to target alumni which saves mailing costs and minimizes the risk of information over-load."
Rossnagel says, "with U-Friend, we try to streamline the kind and amount of information our office sends out."
Technology is making a huge difference in keeping open the lines of communication between the U of S and its graduates.
Rossnagel is convinced, "the more we keep alumni informed about the things they're interested in, the easier our job becomes."
Initially, it has meant more work for the university to ensure alumni are kept informed but the value of staying connected is worth it to both sides.
See related story, Donations to University reveal a wealth of stories
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