In a recent 7-day span, we held six alumni/friends events in five states (Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama). While logistically challenging and time consuming, we view these events as essential to the growth of the Harbert College.
In 2014, we will have at least 50 such events. Why, you ask, do we spend so much time and energy on these events? The answer is simple: engagement. For those who follow my blog, I first wrote about engagement last fall. In particular, I wrote about what we mean by ”engagement.”
Herein, I want to spend some time on why engagement is important.
Engagement represents one of our four strategic goals: engage our stakeholders. And, it is one of five characteristics I have identified that defines a great business school: an engaged alumni and business community. To be among the elite public business schools in the U.S., we know we must engage our alumni/friends and the business community.
Over the past few years, we have worked very hard to increase our engagement. Engagement starts with communication (i.e., how can someone engage with you if they don’t know about you?). Consequently, we have improved our communication – a new magazine, active social media platforms, newsletters, e-mail, the impending launch of a redesigned website, etc.
We must keep our alumni and friends, and the business and academic communities informed of our activities and our plans. Heck, I like to tweet as much as anyone (OK, perhaps not as much as Jason Dufner – that guy tweets all the time; by the way, his tweets are usually hilarious). However, while all of these different types of communication are necessary, they are not sufficient. Despite the explosion of social media, the best way to communicate, and ultimately to engage someone, is face-to-face. Which leads us to why we have so many events … they provide a face-to-face opportunity.
One example of a face-to-face engagement event is our “Lunch with Leaders” (LwL) series. For LwL, an alumni/friend will host a lunch at their office, restaurant, or other location for 20 to 30 people (we usually like to keep attendance under 30 to facilitate conversation). At the LwL, I will provide a brief update on what is happening in the college (confession: sometimes my brief updates turn into not-so-brief updates – we have so much going on it is hard to boil it down to 10-15 minutes!). Anyway, the main portion of the luncheon is for Q&A. Questions are a great way of knowing the issues on the minds of our alumni/friends and business community and a great way to create a dialogue around a topic. Evening receptions, similar to our LwL series, have a comparable format. During the 7-day span I mentioned earlier, we had three receptions, two LwLs, and one breakfast gathering.
These engagement events, designed to energize people about the Harbert College, have many positive outcomes, including industry classroom speakers, internship opportunities, full-time jobs for our graduates, mentors, and numerous gifts of scholarships and professorships (among others). To build a great business school, it takes everyone working together. We cannot do it alone – our alumni, friends, and business community must be engaged and involved in all that we do. And we will do what it takes to inform and engage — even if it means in a 7-day span having six events in five days.