Young GW alumni stay involved

Seniors are unlikely to think that they have much in common with Barton Kogan or Morton Funger, but as soon as they throw their caps into the air Sunday, they will join them as GW alumni.

Recent graduates are some of the most active in the GW Alumni Association. The class of 2004 will automatically become members of the GWAA as soon as they graduate.

The GWAA offers benefits and services to alumni, such as access to some on-campus facilities and an alumni course audit program, which allows graduates to take classes for a $100 fee per course.

GW officials said young graduates are some of the most involved alumni, holding many leadership positions in the GWAA.

A recent graduate leads each of the six regional GWAA chapters, said Stacey Martin, director of regional alumni programs. About 70 percent of participants in the course audit program are young alumni, or people who have graduated in the last 10 years.

“My impression is that student life has changed in recent years. I think there is more pride in the affinity with the University now,” Martin said.

Jason Miller, director of alumni benefits and outreach, said he believes changes in the campus environment have affected alumni involvement.

“There is a correlation with the growth of the campus and the subsequent involvement of alumni,” Miller said.

There are about 60,000 alumni in the metro area. Sixty percent of recent graduates live in D.C. Diana Park, who graduated in 2003 and now works as a research aide at the University, said she has yet to attend any alumni events but would consider doing so in the future.

“I think I’m still a student, it’s only been a year. I don’t think of myself as an (alumna),” Park said.

Martin said many recent graduates do not contact the GWAA until they are faced with “career concerns.”

“(N)ew graduates consider themselves alumni … when they are looking for a job – when it’s crunch time and they are either not in the job they want or haven’t found one yet,” Martin said.

The GWAA partners with the Career Center to offer services and networking opportunities, such as job fairs, to recent graduates.

Joseph Bondi, director of alumni constituency initiatives, said he wants students to feel part of the GW community as soon as they graduate.

“One of the new missions of our office is to work with students while they’re here and educate them about the services we offer,” Bondi said. “We want them to actually realize it on Commencement day.”

The GWAA manages about 150 events each year. Young alumni tend to be most interested in GWAA “happy hours” and networking events, Martin said, but the turnout varies with each city.

Martin added that only one to two percent of alumni invited to events actually attend.

Phil Robinson, a 2003 graduate and former Student Association president, said he has attended one GWAA event since graduation.

Robinson said he has also received a few solicitations for donations and that he plans to donate to the University in the future.

“I think a lot of the time right after college you are usually in debt,” said Robinson, who now works on Capitol Hill. “As time goes on you build a relationship with the University and generally donations follow.”

About 28 percent of undergraduate alumni gave donations to the University last year, up from 14 percent a decade ago. GW officials said they do not compile young alumni giving statistics.

“We’re making new efforts to increase young alumni giving,” said Eugene Finn, associate vice president of Advancement. “For example, the senior class gift drive educates the class that they will be alumni soon and that there is a hope and an expectation that they will support the University.”

But young graduates do not give nearly as much as older alumni. Some of whom, such as Kogan and Funger, have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the University.

“Young alumni tend to give less. As they become more successful, they tend to give to the University,” said Raina Lenney, assistant director of Advancement.

Officials said donations are essential to the development of the University.

“We don’t shy away from solicitations, and we are not embarrassed of them. They are an important part of this institution,” Miller said. “(G)iving is part of the alumni experience.”

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