The university experience is in many ways unique and for the 7,000 students that graduate from the University of Wolverhampton each year, the relationship they have with it is special.
For some it is the knowledge and skills they gain and the personal development they undergo, for others it is the lifelong friends they make and the memories they cherish.
The University of Wolverhampton has long recognised the importance of continuing the relationship from student to graduate, and this November will be launching its first ever alumni association.
The WLV Alumni Association will be a University-wide, global association, bringing together all Wolverhampton graduates old and new, from both the UK and overseas.
The launch comes after an 18-month research project within the University, which looked at how it can formally engage with graduates.
Jane Nelson, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Affairs, was lead sponsor of the project. She says: “The University felt it really important to get involvement and buy in from within the University. So we embarked on formalising a project with students of the University leadership programme (LEAD). The ‘students’ (who were all staff) were tasked with carrying out secondary and primary research to ascertain an ‘appetite’ for alumni relations. I am delighted that their recommendations are now coming to fruition.”
Managing the Association is a new Alumni and Development Office which opened in July this year.
Alumni Services Manager, Amy Roberton, says: “Our alumni are a vital part of the University and we are fortunate to already enjoy a large and pro-active community. The WLV Alumni Association will serve to bring together our graduates as a single group and build an even stronger community for them to enjoy.”
As part of their membership, alumni will receive a variety of benefits including a monthly ezine, ‘WLV@lumni’, the alumni magazine, ‘WLVlife’, and discounts on a range of attractions and activities around the UK.
And in an age where social networking is the norm, the Association is keen to communicate with alumni via Facebook and other channels, sharing the news and successes of other graduates and encouraging them to engage with each other to create their own networking opportunities.
Similarly, a University owned online profile space is also being developed for alumni to keep their contact details up-to-date and share information about themselves, such as their careers and hobbies, so that other graduates can identify members with similar interests.
The Association will have a strong focus on supporting graduates, especially recent ones, through the current turbulent jobs market.
Alumni are increasingly calling on their universities for help securing their first graduate job, and in addition to access to careers advice, job searching facilities and help with CV and interview preparation, members will benefit from a wide range of professional networking, careers and industry speaker events.
Amy adds: “We feel that it is important to give something back to our alumni and while social events and reunions are well received, it’s the opportunities for furthering their career that are their greatest priority.”
In line with the University’s aim to produce graduates that are knowledgeable, enterprising and digitally literate, alumni will also be encouraged to share the knowledge and skills they have developed, both whilst studying and since entering employment, with other graduates and current students coming through the University.
With graduates going into a diverse range of careers including teaching, pharmaceuticals, legal services, graphic design, construction, music production and the media, and with some even going on to set up their own business, their experiences and advice can help current students ensure that they have the necessary attributes for their chosen career and a firmer understanding of the industry before they enter it.
The Alumni and Development Office has already received an overwhelming response from graduates who are eager to volunteer their time to the University, for example by giving guest lectures, taking part in careers fairs and attending University Open Days.
Many have also expressed an interest in becoming Alumni Ambassadors; graduates who will represent the University across the world, and help by organising events for former students and being a point of contact for the Alumni and Development Office.
Amy says: “It’s wonderful to see so many of our alumni eager to use their knowledge and skills to help others. It’s this kind of opportunity that demonstrates how important it is to maintain relationships with your graduates and introduce formal Associations so that their efforts are consolidated and used to greatest effect.” To bridge the distance between UK and international graduates, overseas branches of the WLV Alumni Association will be launched.
A Hong Kong Alumni Association has already been established and there are plans to launch similar ones in India and Singapore/Malaysia in 2011.
The launch of the WLV Alumni Association marks the start of a positive new venture for the University of Wolverhampton and it’s one that many are sure to benefit from.
As Amy says: “This really is an exciting time for the University as we now reach back out to the tens of thousands of alumni who have graduated from us over the years. There are a lot of exciting activities planned for our first year and we are looking forward to building a strong community that past, present and future graduates will be proud to be part of.”