Opinion Asks: Alumni Relations

Are some students better poised than others to connect to alumni?

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 10/4/19 2:05am

Campus was abuzz the last week of September with reunions for the Classes of 1944, 1949 and 1954. Dartmouth’s Homecoming is on Oct. 11, a part of the 250th anniversary celebrations. Alumni will be out in full force, connecting with current students and returning to their old stomping grounds. 

How have the gaps between alumni and current students changed or remained the same? The incredibly diverse student body is less and less like the alumni classes of the early 1970s and before — how can students connect with alumni? Are some student groups better poised than others to forge meaningful bonds between alumni and students? The Dartmouth Opinion Staff responded.

Every year, alumni return to a college that is progressively more different than the college they remember graduating from. Intuitively, legacy students are better poised for establishing meaningful contact with, say, graduates from ’70s, as they already carry, either actively or subconsciously, the values and ideas of the students produced in older campus models. It’s a general rule that humans can’t help gravitating towards familiarity, and in turn, alumni will connect better with students who remind them of themselves.

- Zachary Couvillion ’22

While your average student may not be able to relate to alums, the most opportunities for connection exist within campus organizations, where alumni are incredibly interested in connecting with the present members of their old clubs. Whether it is a sports team (as the newly renovated Friends of Dartmouth Rowing Boathouse clearly indicates), a Greek house (see alumni board fundraising efforts for evidence of this) or an affinity or activist group, alumni seem to be very invested in learning about the state of the organizations they once called their own and are consistently eager to hear from and pass wisdom to those who have followed in their footsteps. So even if students are unable to relate to the experiences that alumni had in their time at Dartmouth, the alums are more than ready to hear about what has changed and what has stayed the same.

- Teddy Hill-Weld ’20

I live in the Boston area, and when I was accepted, an alum stopped by my house to drop off a Dartmouth t-shirt. Alumni connection varies widely by geographic area, unfairly advantaging some students and harming others. After graduation, there’s a lot more than a free shirt on the line — alumni connections can mean jobs and pathways to future success. This limits student choice when it comes to future plans. Where you live ranks among the most basic freedoms, one weighed upon by the desire to follow an optimal career path. Geography is just a fact of life, but the College can take steps to minimize such disadvantages — one day, every accepted student will be gifted a green shirt to welcome them home.

- Maxwell Teszler ’23

Over the last year, I have relied extensively on Dartmouth’s alumni network to find and understand potential career options for after graduation. I have spoken on the phone with at least 20 alums from many different backgrounds and life paths after reaching out via email or LinkedIn to learn more about their stories. I have found that alumni are incredibly responsive and supportive to curious Dartmouth students who are in the process of building their futures would like to learn more about their options. While most of the alumni I have spoken to only graduated Dartmouth within the last five years, I have spoken to alumni from classes as far back as the Class of ’74 ­— these alumni are frequently the most eager to support the Dartmouth community.

I think that my success so far in accessing Dartmouth’s broad alumni network is due to deep shared interests rather than shared backgrounds. The Dartmouth alumni community of Jews from Arizona is not very large ­— I have spoken to a group of individuals that is highly diverse across racial, gender, religious and regional lines. The shared link between me and the alumni network is not our demographics but our shared passion for the power of business to make the world a better place. On the basis of this experience, I would advise Dartmouth students who would like to access our alumni network to try to do so on the basis of the shared passions and life paths that shape our future than the backgrounds and demographics that shape our past.

- Steven Adelberg ’21