One of the top stories on Yahoo! Finance last week was entitled "Grads Snare Alma Mater Perks." The article includes a good overview of many common benefits offered by universities to their alumni. Many of those benefits are also offered to UT Dallas alumni.
I'm glad to see the issue come up in mainstream media, because it highlights the fact that the relationship between universities and their alumni should be mutually beneficial.
The University will always rely on private support from donors and friends, and so it will probably always ask alumni for support, but there are a lot of ways that we alumni also benefit from our connections to the University. Of course the University offers discounts to campus events, the opportunity to audit classes, and special alumni memberships at the Activity Center, but one of the ways we'll benefit most is by building our alumni network.
Aaron Conley, UT Dallas' new Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, shared a great example of the power of the UT Dallas alumni network during the 2009 Alumni Gala. He was visiting recently with an alumnus in Pittsburgh who happens to be a vice president at H.J. Heinz. That alumnus was interested in expanding their business in Asia with McDonald's, and was looking for a good contact in Taiwan. Guess who happens to be the managing director and CEO of McDonald's in Taiwan? A fellow EMBA alumnus. For sure, when the alumnus in Pittsburgh mentioned his dilemma to Aaron, he wasn't expecting Aaron to have the perfect contact in Taiwan. These are the connections that are built through a strong alumni network. These connections add value to our degrees.
I think many of us have an image of UT Dallas, born from our own times here. That's very natural, but it also means that if you haven't been back to campus recently, your impression of UT Dallas is probably pretty out-of-date. Several thousand new alumni join our ranks each year. All of us together form the alumni network for one of Texas' most prestigious universities. If we don't know what's going on here, though, and we fail to recognize the great strides our alma mater has taken over the past forty years, we also fail to take advantage of the benefits of our association with UT Dallas and each other. To update your image of UT Dallas, check out the University's newly released 2008 Annual Report.
Erin Dougherty, '03 and '07
Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving