Hosting alumni events is second nature for an Alumni Relations team that is used to planning a couple dozen events each year for more than 1,000 alumni and friends. While health and safety regulations of the pandemic have halted in-person events, it has given the team time to reimagine its engagement strategies.
With regional socials and campus visits on hold, the desire to socialize remains ever-present among the alumni community. The CCAA’s new plan introduces virtual events that are live-streamed and recorded for the entire alumni network.
“The college is constantly working to be flexible, engaging and innovative in everything it does, and we hope to showcase that with this series of virtual events,” says Keith McIver, director of Alumni Development. “There are so many tools available to us now that actually increase our opportunities to engage with alumni around the world.”
The early returns have been positive, after the first virtual event was broadcasted on Friday, September 18. McIver hosted a behind-the-scenes tour of at Logboat Brewing Co. and talked to the brewery owners about running a successful during a pandemic. Logboat was co-founded in 2015 by Judson Ball ’07.
More than 60 alumni from 16 states and 1 guest from Australia registered for the tour, tuning in through Zoom and Facebook Live. Click here to watch the on-demand recording.
One of the biggest wins for this digital format is the ability to be everywhere at once. “We are able to simultaneously reach alumni from diverse regions and across all time zones,” McIver says.
Jeannie Lahman ’18 has regularly attended CCAA events to meet fellow alumni in her community and share her affinity for the college. Lahman earned her associates degree through Columbia College’s Online Program in 2000 and became more involved while finishing her bachelor’s degree in 2018. After visiting with the staff at several regional events, she visited campus for a birthday lunch with the Alumni Relations staff in 2019 and was invited to join the CCAA Advisory Board.
Naturally, Lahman was the first participant to log-in for the virtual event. “Take an hour of your time to reconnect with your school,” she recommends. “You’ll meet new people and find out all the wonderful things going on at CC.”
Alumni Relations has collaborated with several areas of the college on a fall line-up. College leadership will lead a virtual “Coffee with the College” the Saturday morning of Homecoming Weekend, October 10. Other taking place next month will be a social hour with Billy Polansky ’17 and Carrie Hargrove ’09 at the Columbia Center for Urban Gardens (October 6), a resume workshop with the Grossnickle Career Services Center (October 14) and a forum with political science professor Dr. Terry Smith heading into the 2020 election (October 26).
“We hope to carry out this programming and provide not only a social aspect, but also an informative and beneficial component for our audience members,” McIver says.
This method aligns naturally with the content shared regularly through digital media channels. Carolyn Preul, associate director of Advancement Communications, transitioned the CCAA magazine, Affinity, to a digital-only format this summer and has increased its frequency from two to three issues a year. Stay tuned for the fall edition to be emailed in October.
Alumni continue to receive monthly e-newsletters with college updates and member spotlights. Perhaps the most popular message is the Facebook giveaway announced each Monday, giving participants a shot at winning alumni merchandise while they scroll the CCAA’s feed for photos of campus and popular “throwback” memories from old yearbooks.
“Our alumni always enjoy posts from our Archives collection,” Preul says. “They tag classmates, reminisce about dorm life and even request what yearbook we show next. Facebook is a great venue to start conversations and share memories.”