Once a Student, Forever an Alum

Next Saturday, I will walk across the stage and become a WIU alumnus.  That day, my college career will officially be over and I will become part of the “real world”.  I was nervous to accept this; however Director of Alumni Programs Amy Spelman calmed my nerves as she explained what it really means to be a WIU alumnus.

In case you’ve forgotten, Western alumni receive great benefits after graduation!  Spelman explained a lot of alumni associations at other universities charge alumni to become a member of their association.  Luckily, WIU doesn’t do that; once you graduate from Western, you automatically become a member of the WIU Alumni Association and there are no dues or fees.  “We’re committed to no fees,” Spelman said.  With all the benefits available, she explained to me that one of the best benefits of being a WIU alumnus is the opportunity to connect with the other 124,000 alumni.  “The best way you can describe what the benefits are is that you become a permanent trustee of this University,” Spelman told me.  If you’d like to refresh your memory on all the benefits, you can view all the details at   http://wiu.edu/alumni/benefits.php.

“Over the years, we’ve really worked hard to try and come up with ways to get the information out to alumni,” Spelman said.  The growing use of technology and electronic media plays a vital role in this communication.  Alumni Programs uses social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many more to spread the word about upcoming events and other benefits. Aside from social media, Spelman said email has been a huge communication tool.  Once a student graduates, the Office of the Registrar moves each student data file to the alumni database. Once the new alumni are on the database, they will start receiving information from the Alumni Association.  “We’ve noticed a bigger turn out at Alumni Events from people we have an email address for,” Spelman told me.  If you haven’t updated your contact information with WIU’s Alumni Programs, you can send an email to A-Association@wiu.edu or give them a call at 309-298-1914. In the last ten months, Kim Stuaan, an Assistant Director of Alumni Programs, sent 1.9 million emails to WIU alumni and friends… are you getting these emails?

As I mentioned above, WIU hosts Alumni and Friends Events all over the country.  Alumni Programs works to plan a variety of events from sporting events to cultural events to reunions and everything in between.  Spelman explained most events have a registration fee, which covers just the cost to attend the event; they never charge more.  They also plan complimentary events.  For a look at when WIU will be in your area, check out their Events Calendar at http://wiu.edu/alumni/events.php.   And remember, Alumni and Friends Events aren’t fundraisers.  The best part about these events is, “putting alumni back in touch with each other,” Spelman said.

As a student on the verge of becoming an alumnus, Spelman talked to me about that transition.  “The day you graduate, you get an email from us welcoming you to the Alumni Association,” she said.  It’s as easy as that, and I cannot wait to receive that email welcoming me to the alumni family.  However, commencement weekend isn’t only about the graduating students.  Spelman told me that at each graduation (in December and in May), the Alumni Association presents alumni awards.  “It’s a really big weekend for us,” she said.

One of the greatest things I learned from my talk with Spelman was the amount of help that is offered to WIU alumni and by WIU alumni.  “We can help each other,” she explained.   “Alumni can help us keep their Alma Mater alive and strong,” she further stated.  Spelman explained it isn’t about money…”it’s great if they give back financially, but for me, volunteering, speaking at classes, sending students our way, is just as important,” she said.  And, WIU can help reconnect alumni which ultimately will help you network.

Alumni Programs loves to keep all alumni in touch with whatever interests them back on campus. Remember, you aren’t just an alumnus of WIU, you are also an alumnus of your academic area and student organization(s).  Speaking with Spelman made the thought of graduating much more comforting because I now know there will always be that strong connection back to this fine University. “If we can help alumni in any way, shape, or form, because they’re a graduate of this University and a permanent trustee, we’re going to help them,” Spelman said.  My purple pride has definitely grown over the past few months while working in WIU Alumni Programs and I am glad I get to share it with all of you.

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