An educational institute is a sum total of an institute’s ethos, leader’s vision, faculty members’ razor-sharp intellect, staff members’ commitment, students’ aspirations, and alumni’s gratitude. An alumni network is an extended and expanded identity of any educational institute. The feeling of going back to alma-mater is a nostalgic journey, moreover, an expression of gratitude. The illustrious alumni base adds to the institutional legacy and acts as the wind beneath the wings for many young aspirants.
The Mysuru-based National Institute of Engineering (NIE) has one such wind, rather a storm – Narayan Murthy, the legendary Indian Businessman and the Founder of Infosys, who shaped the Indian IT sector in the early 1990s and has inspired thousands of young minds to become first-generation entrepreneurs. A once India Inc’s Most Powerful CEO, Narayan Murthy, said, “Nobody is bothered about an institution more than its alumni”. As a man of his words, in 2016, he reached out to his alma-mater and went on a week-long tour to the USA to find and reconnect with his fellow global alumni to make NIE a healthier institution and add immense value to the university.
There are a series of alumni-related anecdotes that resonate with each of us in our own way. In 2015, in a heart-warming conversation with an alumnus from 1993-95 batch of K J Somaiya Institute of Management, Sendhil Kumar vividly remembered his then Director, Prof. Arya, who would call up every student on their birthday to wish them. Even after 25 years, he and his batch-mates cherish it. It is the memories that bring alumni back to their alma-mater, reaffirming the influence of teachers on their former students.
An alma-mater is the nest that shelters zillions of hearts with dreams and hopes, which find their home on the global map over the years. An institution expands beyond its physical campus through its alumni network. The shared value and bond that incoming, current and former students share through the sense of belongingness to their common alma-mater is enough to break the ice and establish a healthy connection.
For an alumnus, to help build an alumni network is one of the selfless acts. In the past ten years, Mehul Ashar, K J Somaiya Institute of Management alumnus of the 2002-04 batch, has been instrumental in building a robust Hyderabad Alumni Local Circle for his alma-mater. As shared by most Hyderabad-based alums, “we have to join when Mehul calls up“, such is the power of peer-influence.
As Harvey Specter, the fictional lead character from the popular series Suits, says, “Loyalty is a two-way street” – is true for alumni relations as well. An institute’s alumni relations’ initiatives and alumni’s active involvement go in clasped hands. Institutions strive, revive and thrive through the meaningful alumni engagement and so do the alumni communities ascertain, attain and sustain with the alma-mater’s involved participation.
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Alums are the ambassadors who instil Institute’s goodwill and trust in the society and in the professional ecosystem. At times, alumni’s loyalty towards their alma-mater can go well beyond professional realms. With 40 years of legacy in management education, and 13,000+ alumni worldwide, an instance narrated by K J Somaiya Institute of Management’s alum from 1999-01 batch, Jatindeep Sachdeva, is an exemplum. He shared that four of his immediate family members pursued their MBA from his alma-mater. The kind of trust and confidence that alumni can build for the brand is next to none.
The present COVID-19 pandemic has hit everyone hard at a personal and professional level, but it surely came with a silver lining for alumni relations. The pandemic has galvanised many alumni networks and it was heartening to see the way alumni came together to help each other, their families and their alma-maters. The pandemic has led to a digital transformation in educational institutes with technology aiding to bring the alumni network closer. Platforms like LinkedIn (Alumni tool for educational institute pages), Whatsapp & Telegram groups, Zoom video conferencing, etc. have made it simpler for the alumni relations’ offices across institutes to facilitate networking with alums and bring them back to campus virtually, resulting in 2X engagement during the pandemic year. The geographical barriers no longer exist, allowing alumni from any corner of the world to engage with their alma-mater with just one mouse-click. It is alumni relations which paves the path from academia to the corporate with regular interaction between alumni and students. Alumni’s expression of thankfulness can be multi-faceted – as mentors, guest speakers, recruiters and the list can go on.
One of the major impetus for alumni relations in Indian Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) came in as recent as January 2021 from the University Grants Commission (UGC), Government of India (GoI). In assent with the National Education Policy (NEP 2020), the GoI has suggested the HEIs to establish an Alumni Cell to build alumni connect. In addition, a few authoritative organizations consider alumni outreach as a ranking parameter for B-Schools. The Indian Government’s thrust for alumni connect is an encouraging indicator for alumni relations becoming a mainstream parameter in the rankings.
An educational institute’s alumni network is one of its greatest assets. Institutions involvement with the alumni network is a long-term exercise. An optimistic intent and positive action succeed in building a stronger community of alums which will help in reconnecting to the alma-mater for tangible and intangible support. The give-back is immeasurable, especially when it is the alumni’s time, knowledge & resources; and contributing to one’s alma-mater is the generous gesture of gratefulness and a valuable way to nurture the institution that nurtured them.
– Arvind Pandi Dorai
The author heads the Office of Advancement (Alumni Relations, PR & Development) for K J Somaiya Institute of Management