Job Title: Senior Regional Alumni Relations Manager
Type of Company: I work for a large, private university in an urban setting in development and alumni relations.
Education: BA in Child Development, Tufts University Certificate in Massage Therapy, Boulder College of Massage Therapy MS (expected 2010) in Arts Administration, Boston University
Previous Experience: I started in alumni relations at Tufts University which segued into a job as Events and PR Coordinator for a non-profit adoption agency. After that, I got into development (fundraising) for a K-8 independent school for children with language based learning disorders and finally came full circle, landing in alumni relations at another university.
Job Tasks: My job primarily consists of volunteer management and event planning. As a regional manager, I serve as a liaison between our volunteer alumni networks in cities around the country and the university. I plan, staff and execute events that engage our alumni with each other and the university. I work closely with front-line fundraisers, who spend much of their time traveling around the country meeting alumni and cultivating relationships for the purpose of soliciting philanthropy. In addition, I work with senior staff and our team to create a long-term strategy for the growth and maintenance of our organization. We all collaborate with many other departments across campus, especially student services, admissions and athletics.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I love my colleagues. People who are attracted to this line of work are typically outgoing, passionate and socially aware. While the university is technically a nonprofit and shares that ideology, we don't have as many of the struggles as other, possibly smaller nonprofit organizations. What we lack in salary, we make up in benefits: generous sick and vacation time, excellent health insurance coverage and - most important to me - the opportunity to take classes and earn my masters degree for free.
Challenges include working with difficult personalities (alumni volunteers), figuring out how to "fire" a volunteer, slogging through the bureaucracy and red tape of a large university set in the status quo.
1. The best way to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of this field is to work in it - try to get a work-study job in the alumni office while you work toward your undergraduate degree. Get involved with your university's student-alumni council.
2. Also, a degree in psychology or counseling is very useful.
3. Visit the web site for the industry's professional organization, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, at www.case.org.
Additional Thoughts: In this career you need to be friendly and outgoing with excellent interpersonal and customer service skills. Flexibility is key. The ability to work under pressure and troubleshoot at a moment's notice will help immensely. Also, keep a good sense of humor and perspective - my boss always says, "There's no such thing as an alumni relations emergency." While it's important to act professionally at all times and take any job you have seriously, alumni relations is not brain surgery; no one's life is at stake.
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