Bringing the alumni back

Brandeis has been known by many for having little to no school spirit. In the 2020 edition of “The Best 385 Colleges” by The Princeton Review, Brandeis was ranked No. 1 in the “There’s a Game?” category, which asks students to rate how popular intercollegiate sports are on their campuses. Brandeis has gone up two spots since last year’s ranking, denoting students’ poor attendance at sporting events. 

While the university has made efforts to improve school pride through programming, such as “We Wear Blue” spirit days and “We The Jury” initiatives, we, The Brandeis Hoot editorial board, feel that the sense of community needs to expand beyond the current student body to Brandeis alumni. If alumni feel more connected with Brandeis, they may feel more inclined to invest in its future. In learning about Brandeis’ need to increase fundraising efforts in a Hoot article about springboard funding, we found that the school needs to roughly double fundraising efforts in order to remain competitive with its peers. We hope our alumni donate because they want to give back to the institution and its current students, not out of social obligation. 

Brandeis alumni are a vital part of our community, but we, as a university, are not doing enough to reach out to them post-graduation. One of Brandeis’ biggest draws is its sense of community—on such a small campus, it’s easy to get to know your fellow classmates. Apart from friendships, college offers networking opportunities. These connections can lead us through our career, as people we connect with in college can help us in our future endeavors.

Although Brandeis has some resources connecting students to alumni, they are often hidden away, and most students don’t know how to access them. The Hiatt Career Center, which has an entire page titled “Beyond Brandeis,” shows students the most popular locations, job positions and universities that recent graduates are attending. The Brandeis Alumni and Friends website has links to a plethora of Facebook groups, LinkedIn networking groups, an alumni directory and more. These resources are tucked away in a tab on a website that is in itself difficult to find if you are not searching for it.

College is a great time to network, not only with students in your class but with undergraduates and graduates alike, and that idea is pushed on students constantly. However, students are left searching far and wide for the tools needed to actually connect with members of their community.

It is also important to note that Brandeis alumni want to connect with current students, especially those involved with activities they took part in as undergraduates. For example, for Homecoming weekend each year, alumni of different varsity sports return to campus and compete in alumni games against the current team. During the most recent Homecoming weekend, two former varsity tennis alumni donated the new outdoor Cordish Tennis Center and a group of alumni donated a new scoreboard for the tennis program.

At The Hoot, we started reconnecting with our alumni last spring, and it has been a great experience. We have learned about their wish to feel more connected to the school and their communities. They also enjoy seeing us uphold the legacy of their work, continuing to support the organizations that they may have started themselves. 

This past week, we had the opportunity to meet alumnus Jordan Rothman ’09 M.A. ’09, who returned to campus for a Segal Fellowship retreat. While speaking to Rothman, we learned that there were many alumni who, like Rothman, want to connect with current students but don’t have the avenue to do it. Not only does Brandeis have very few ways in which it connects with alumni, such as Phonathon, but it has eliminated common and popular events such as five-year reunions. Brandeis instead instituted annual “Alumni Weekends,” which are not designed for specific class years and are more of an open event for alumni as a whole.

Brandeis housed and educated each of these alumni, and they want to pay it back as adults. However, the university has not done enough to connect alumni to the university, current students and other alumni. If the university wants to connect more with alumni, both to support its current students and raise donations for the school, it needs to meet them halfway, welcoming them back with open arms (and open palms).

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