Effectively Utilizing Your Alumni’s Social Capital

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Julia Freeland Fisher, Author & Director of Education at the Clayton Christensen Institute, joined the podcast to talk about the future of the well-networked university and the best ways for advancement teams to engage with their alumni.

What would it mean to cultivate alumnifor their social capital, for their networks? And, from a business case,how does that actually contribute to the students all of overall return on investment? You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional developmentpodcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university.Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources,you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome backto enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network.I'm Eric Wilson with Helix Education and we're here today with Julia Freeland Fisher,director of education at the Clayton Christianson Institute and the author of who you know, unlocking innovations that support students networks. Julia, welcome to this show.Thanks so much for having me. Really...

...excited to talk with you today abouteffectively utilizing the social capital of our alumni. But before we dig in, canyou give the listeners a little background on the Clayton Christiansen Institute and yourrule there? Sure so. The Clayton Christienson Institute is a small nonprofit,nonpartisan think tank that was founded by Clay Christiansen, who was a professor atthe Harvard Business School Whi, among other things, coined the term disruptive innovation, which is a term that gets overused and under the fine if you're talkingto entrepreneurs, but basically describes which innovation scale and why and how sort ofentire industries unexpectedly get up ended over time. So we can get a bit intowhat that looks like in the alumni space. But in our education practicethe Christians and institute, we look at innovations across cage twelve and the postsecondary space to understand in particular, innovations that are expanding access, affordability andhigh quality education for more students. And my own research focuses, as youmentioned, on not just students access to...

...sort of learning and academic experiences buttheir access to networks as a really key piece of the opportunity equation. Andso excited to dig in. Yes, so excited to take these research pacestudies of disruption innovation and see how you've started to think about them in theadvancement space. So, to kick us off today, do you believe thatcolleges are effectively utilizing their alumni. Yeah, so I'm not going to make abroad real statement about effective utilization on all fronts. Obviously alumni are thefuel for many colleges and universities that rely heavily on endowments to sustand themselves.So I think in that sense alumni are a powerful force and not to beunderestimated. But what prompted me to write our most recent paper on alumni networksreimagined was a statistic from the strata gallic alumni survey from two thousand and eighteen, which said that among graduates, only...

...nine percent of college graduates said thattheir alumni network was helpful or very helpful in navigating the job market, andI think that's pretty astounding. I think it's astounding for a couple reasons,but primarily if you think about the sort of bill of goods that were sellingto students baked into the price of tuition. Access to a network is part ofit, and so we believe that, based on data like that, thealumni network is a really undercapitalized resource, particularly when it comes to students havingthe resources that networks ought to be offering them, particularly for labor marketsort of optionality and flexibility postgraduation. Yeah, that metric was a standout for meas well. I moved to San Diego, California couple years ago andafter seeing that metric, I realized I have not connected with alumni of eithermy undergrad or Grad program since I been down there. Why? So,to restate it, yes, only nine...

...percent of alumni report their alumni networkhas been helpful for them the job market. What should our alumni in advancement teamsmake out of a statistic like that? Yeah, well, part of whatwe looked out in the paper is, as you know well, alumni engagementand development offices in many ways kind of own the alumni relationship, atleast at colleges and universities that are focused on alumni giving. Now, thatactually turns out to not be the majority of post secondary institutions, which isan important detail for anyone interested in kind of the broader post secondary market,because I think there's a lot of opportunities in places where there isn't this sortof ownership or territory dynamic. But sticking with colleges and universities where advancement officesdo play a role and are thinking about cultivating alumni for financial capital. Ithink there's a real conversation to be had about what would it mean to cultivatealumni for their social capital, for their networks and and from a business case, how does that actually contribute to the...

...students all of overall return on investment? That's a little bit of a wonky term or turn on investment, butit really is going to become increasingly important, we think, in the coming yearsas, hopefully, the higher education market shifts to something that's more outcomesbased, that institutions are increasingly looking at and held accountable to whether they arein fact creating value long term in their students lives and an outcomes based worldnetworks likely matter more. Yeah, let's dig into that concept of does valueonly equal money and ortalanthropic giving you mentioned. The governance of these advancement divisions isoften predicated on this reality. Of the most important connection point with ouralumni is the ask our financial asks. The best way for our advancement teamsto initially engage with alumni versus time asks, like through mentorship. Sure, Ithink it's a mix. I actually...

...want to share. You know,we start this paper off with a story from Colby College, which is asmall liberal Arts College, and Colby's president, David Green, responded to the pandemic, which is obviously a very urgent circumstance, but I would say highereducation is facing most multiple crisis right now, so it's not the only crisis athand. But present. Green made a bold ask in May two thousandand twenty, which was to sort of ask their alumni networks at colby toopen doors for graduates who were seeing, obviously in the in the economic recession, not great job prospects, who were not sort of getting access to jobsat the rate that prior graduating classes had. Now that's like a flashy announcement insome ways that bore a lot of fruit. But the other thing PresidentGreen did that I think is really powerful is in this is a quote fromhim, he took his fund raisers and made them job seekers. He actuallyrepurposed his advancement department temporarily, right. This is not a permanent shift,to actually tap into those networks to expand...

...opportunities for a graduates rather than totap into those networks for money. And the reason I mentioned that story isnot that Colby College has now abandoned all fundraising efforts. That's absolutely not thecase. They're in the middle of a giant campaign now. But I mentionedit to sort of say, depending on your circumstances and your vision as botha department and the university, if employability of your graduates is a high priority, then these asks for social capital, for referrals, for advice, forsupport on behalf of your students and recent graduates, are going to actually payreal dividends. And so I think if you're in that circumstance, paying attentionto social capital, not just financial capital, is really, really important. It'snot the only thing, obviously, again if you're a university or collegethat relies heavily on endowments, but it's, I think, an underappreciated one thatthat moment for Colby College really, I think, shines a light onuntap potential in these networks. Let's dig into the after image of what disruptiveinnovation would look like in this space.

Can you help us picture what ahealthy college network looks like? What is the future state of a Well NetworkUniversity? Yeah, it's a great question. Again, I think I want topoint out that we think this may look different depending on the kind offinancial model at different postsecondary institution. So they're sort of two big story lines, I would say. The first is that among more elite and and orwell resourced universities, that part of what's getting sold to students is not justthe shiny profiles of successful alumni but access to alumni. That makes sense andpart of what we try and illustrate in the paper is that that access canhappen throughout the student journey, not just sort of through a directory at thetail end when you're looking for a job or after you graduate when you're tryingto maybe get access to a new opportunity, but from day one students might actuallybe interacting with alumni who are playing...

...the role of mentor who are providingcareer advice, who are sources of client projects, short cycle internships and experientiallearning, and even who may be playing a part time staff role. Sothere's these myriad roles that I think universities could start to take advantage of duringthe four six year journey that students are on, rather than this kind ofyou you access this resource at the very end. That's one sign of anetwork university. The second, and this is not as much a centerpiece,of the paper I wrote, but our broader research on the power of networksis that colleges and university start to treat relationships as outcomes alongside skills and competencies, meaning I know I'm graduating what both with the academic, rigorous content andskills, but also with the networks that I need to be successful in thelabor market. That's one sort of set of opportunities. As far as disruptiveinnovation goes, though, for any budding...

...entrepreneurs listening to this, we didspot a real opportunity and a real gap in the market, and that gapis affordable technology tools for colleges and universities that do not have an active alumniengagement strategy. There's a bit of a chicken and egg here right it's notsurprising that some of the larger providers graduate people, growth, etc. AreBuilding Platforms for wealthier institutions who can pay higher prices. That is exactly whatany rational entrepreneur would do, but what it does is that it leaves opena giant swath of the market of colleges and other institutions that could take immenseadvantage, particularly of local and regional alumni networks, to plug their graduates intoregional economies, but aren't doing so because they lack the resources to procure anyof these more expensive tools. So just a push on that would be aclassic disruption opportunity. Just disruptive innovation sort of start off serving less wealthy customers. Typically they don't make the same margins...

...as the big fancy platforms, butover time they can actually improve an upend an entire market. Really, reallygood stuff, Julia, to leave us today, help us think about ourdisc ruption opportunities. If we're in house, if we're listening to this on theadvancement side, nodding our heads right now but going okay. But whatdid Julie Want Me To do? Is this? Is this a tactical approach? I got to address this a different way. Is this a thought andbelief approach about what we actually should be doing here? Is it a governanceissue? Do I have to go and break some things apart? For Alumniassociations looking to better connect their alumni, where should they start first? Yeah, I love this question and thanks for holding me to account. As,like the think tank, theoretical person is the first that you kind of justsure. I do think this is a mindset shift. I think that ifwe were orienting higher education around return on investment to the student, access tonetworks would be a more obvious ingredient in...

...that return on investment, and soI do think that mindset shift is important. But when it comes to tactics,there's three things I would name that we sort of called out in thepaper. The first is the importance of like authentic collaboration across silo departments,that being student affairs, career services and alumni engagement. Now you talk toa lot of folks where it obviously there's people talking across those departments, butauthentic collaboration will obviously look different, will be about shared resources and to sortof hold that sort of collaboration accountable, at least on this idea of socialcapital, not just financial capital, as the resource being generated out of alumniengage ment. You have to pay attention to the metrics that those folks areheld to write. Even talking to an entrepreneur last week who's doing fascinating stuffin the alumni engagement space, there's no university or college currently asking him forstudent level success metrics. They're all about alumni engagement metrics. Right they're notabout how students are experiencing the relationships that...

...they're that this tool are putting withinreach for students, and that needs to shift if we want that kind ofcross stylo collaboration to actually bear fruit for current and recent graduates. And thelast thing I would say is paying attention to technologies emerging in the post secondaryspace that may not be labeled alumni engagement technologies but may have immense potential.One category we looked at deeply in this paper where it was around experiential learningand access to what gets called sort of client projects, which are much shorterthan a full fledged internship but give students access to those real world skills andnetworks that can translate to jobs down the line. So tools like Parker Doyripe in an effort called the bridges alliance that people growth is running right now. All of these are not designed to be alumni engagement in order to askfor money tools, but they are designed to make it much easier for universitiesthan even faculty to tap into those rich alumni networks that are flushed with socialcapital that is being left on the table...

...right now. Do your wonderful stuff. Thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners toconnect with you they have any follow up questions? Yeah, absolutely so. All of our research on this kind of emergent idea of expanding students accessto social capital lives at who you know dot org. I'm also on twitterat Juliet F Freeland, and Christians and institute DOT ORG has all of ourresearch available as well. Awesome. Thanks so much for joining us to Julia. Thank you, Eric. Is My pleasure. Attracting today's new post traditionallearners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approachto enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook withfifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growthchallenges, downloaded today for free at Helix...

Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listeningto enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss anepisode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank youso much for listening until next time.

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