New Alumni Association president seeks stronger connection with current students

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Alumni Association President Venessa Perry said in an interview that she wants the group to boost its interaction with current students by attending more campus events and starting an alumni-student mentoring program.

The new president of the GW Alumni Association wants to work more directly with students before they graduate.

Alumni Association President Venessa Perry said in an interview that she wants the group to boost its interaction with current students by attending more campus events and starting an alumni-student mentoring program. Perry said the expanded student outreach will make students more aware of the association before they are alumni and encourage them to be more involved later on.

Perry, who was introduced as the Alumni Association’s president at a Board of Trustees meeting last May, is an alumna of the Milken Institute School of Public Health and the CEO of Health Resource Solutions, a healthcare consulting firm. She founded the public health school’s alumni association in 2002.

She said she hopes to take alumni engagement, which the association considers attending networking events or alumni programs – not donating to the University – from around 1 percent to about 10 percent in the next five years. Perry said the primary focus of the organization is engagement, but the group also looks to attract donations.

“We feel that if alumni are engaged, they will ultimately want to give,” she said.

Historically, alumni giving has hovered around 10 percent. The $1 billion fundraising campaign alone pulled in more than 40,000 alumni donors over three years.

Perry said the Alumni Association will be more of a presence at University events this academic year after the executive board last year restructured the organization and implemented a strategic plan, for the first time, to help achieve their goals.

The Alumni Association went from eight to four committees, with the largest committee focusing on alumni engagement, Perry said.

Monika Laws, the Mount Vernon Campus representative on the organization’s executive board, said improving student outreach is valuable for the students who will soon join the association themselves.

“On the board, everyone has a valuable role, and has something to impress upon the students who will become eventually members of this association,” she said.

Ezra Alltucker, a junior who sits on the executive board as a student representative, said he supported the new direction of the board and would bring his student perspective to the work of the board.

“Recognizing that students’ experiences during their time on campus will be the biggest influence on how they interact with the GW community as alumni is critical to view alumni relations as beginning with current students,” he said.

Alumni Association representatives were in Kogan Plaza Saturday to welcome students back to campus at First Night. Perry said the magnified student outreach will require a multi-year effort.

Officials have sought to get students more involved in University giving in recent years through the Senior Class Gift Campaign and “Flag Day,” a fundraising blitz targeting current students each spring.

Perry and Dean Coclin, the Alumni Association’s engagement committee chair, met with Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski and Rob Snyder, the executive director of planning and outreach in the Division of Student Affairs, earlier this month to discuss launching an alumni-student mentoring program, Perry said.

The Alumni Association already works with the Women’s Leadership Program, but Perry said the association will partner with DSA to take students to conferences, including the “Plain Talk in Complex Times” conference this week, where Perry will bring six students to learn strategies for improving communication skills.

Perry said aligning the Alumni Association more with the University in direct partnerships like the mentorship program will give the association more access to University resources, like alumni affinity groups, networks of former students with similar interests. Last fall, the Alumni Association executive board piloted an outreach program measuring the association’s one-on-one outreach to alumni in hopes of increasing affinity group participation, like the GW Black Alumni Association and the WRGW alumni group.

Perry said the Alumni Association will also collect feedback on what students are looking for from alumni. The strategic plan has given the board a greater sense of purpose and a clearer idea of what it needs to accomplish, she said.

Creating a more active board was one of Jeremy Gosbee’s signature goals when he took over the association in 2015.

“The board is just happy to finally be doing something,” she said. “I don’t want to say dog and pony show, but you know.”

Leah Potter contributed reporting.

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