Keeping Alumni Connected

A social media moment has stayed with Rick Goins.

“Someone wrote online that the first and only time she heard from her alumni association was 10 years after graduation, and it was a request for money,” he said. The comments after the post showed a deep vein of anger from people whose only connection to their alumni association was a fundraising request.

Goins agrees with grads that alumni groups should be active and offer value to members long before anyone requests financial support.UAFS Alums

As director of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith Alumni Association, Goins is in a good position to make that happen for alumni.

Among the activities he sponsors are meetings between alumni and students in particular fields. In February, for instance, he brought in 10 alums: four elementary teachers and an elementary assistant principal and four secondary teachers and a secondary assistant principal. They met with students who are at various points in their college education.

The situation is inherently win-win, Goins thinks, or make that win-win-win. The professionals, especially the administrators, get a good chance to see the students who will be looking for jobs soon. The students get to ask their questions about the job in a safe (i.e., not a job interview) environment. And Goins has a chance to tell the students that he hopes they will come back when they are the ones with the jobs and the answers to talk to the students.

But everything isn’t job directed with Goins. The Alumni Association also sponsors three totally fun events for alumni with children. Little Lions – Big Splash, Little Lions Go Wild, and Little Lions Meet Santa. The first is a fun evening at Parrot Island Water Park in the summer, the second is an October trip to Wild Things Farm and the last is a chance to have snacks and make crafts before sitting on Santa’s lap for a free portrait.

Such activities keep alumni connected to the school that was a big part of their lives for four or so years. And they help make sure those little lions grow up knowing about the university and their place in it if they choose to take it.

As for grown-up activities, in the last year, Alumni Association has held four panel discussions open to alumni about issues in the community. Events start with 30 minutes of networking. Then a panel of experts offers comments about an issue of general interest, and the audience has a chance to ask questions. Each of the events has been held in a different place, and each has offered light refreshments catered by an alum.

In January, a lunchtime panel discussion about a downtown development plan by Gateway Planning drew an audience of 90: 49 alumni, two students from Mentor Connections, six to eight executive mentors and various members of the UAFS community.