Attention UB alumni who are living abroad: The university is looking for you.
It's all part of a concerted effort "to find, communicate with and engage our alumni abroad," William J. Evitts, executive director of alumni relations, tells readers in this issue (see page 25). Initially, Evitts says, the university will concentrate on Asia, where 70 percent of international alumni now live.
Joseph F. Williams, who recently retired after 30 years as director of international student and scholar services, has been appointed coordinator of international alumni relations. Ronald H. Stein, vice president for advancement and development, cites Williams' position, the first at the university, as evidence of UB's "long-term commitment to building our international alumni programs, developing relations with international alumni, and continuing these relationships."
Many universities are now stressing international alumni relations for reasons of recruitment, philanthropy and research opportunities. Leaders in the field, says Williams, include Cornell-with 38 organized overseas alumni chapters-and the University of California-Berkeley. Though private institutions have more experience in developing international alumni programs, several public institutions are now taking the lead in maintaining ties with foreign graduates.
The UB effort coincides with concerns about continuing efforts to attract the best and brightest students from abroad, although the university currently enrolls about 2,000 students from more than 100 countries. Vice Provost for International Education Stephen C. Dunnett, in a formal report issued last August, urged coordinated, more sophisticated international recruitment efforts that take note of the heightened competition for outside students worldwide.
Jionardi Hindrawan, international education program development officer and a native of Indonesia, recently participated in a recruitment tour comprised of leading U.S. universities, in which he visited eight countries in Southeast Asia. Of the 2,500 students who visited the popular UB booth, 60 percent were interested in graduate programs.
The university's visibility in Asia, says Williams, should help build an international alumni program in that region. He plans to first identify alumni abroad through networking and old-fashioned detective work. International Alumni Relations will try "to reinterest overseas alumni in UB, help them reconnect with their former professors and stay abreast of campus news and activities," Williams says.
"We're working essentially with former students who were relatively older, more mature, having pursued a professional degree, or were in a Ph.D. program. We have now identified about 2,000 international alumni, but given the numbers of international students at UB over the last 30 years-and tracking that population and a few expatriates-we hope to identify as many as 6,000 to 8,000 overseas alumni in three to four years."
Within three years, Alumni Relations hopes to charter up to ten alumni chapters overseas. "The overseas chapters can be a rallying point for UB interests in many countries," says Williams. "A number of UB overseas endeavors, including the extension programs, exchanges and study-abroad, were initiated with the help of our alumni.
"Furthermore, many of our international graduates are distinguished in the arts, sciences and education, and have made extensive contributions to technology and economic development. We want to reach out to these alumni and recognize their achievements."
In launching the program, the university faces logistical problems common to many schools. Williams points out: "The problem is that once these alumni have moved, it's difficult to reconnect." The Internet should be especially helpful in locating international alums, he adds. "We think that our international alumni, perhaps even more so than our domestic alumni, are more active users of E-mail and the Internet. We'd like to start an international alumni homepage and eventually launch an international edition of UB Today."