The Class of 2020 Is The Start of a New Era

There’s no way to sugarcoat this: the Class of 2020 is getting a raw deal.

Whether in high school or college, every student looks forward to the second semester of senior year and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with it. This was all taken away from them in an instant because of COVID-19 and its lingering impact.

High school seniors get an opportunity to go to college and make new memories before heading off into the workforce (whenever students are allowed on campus again). For college seniors, the one last hurrah they were looking forward to for about three-and-a-half years isn’t happening, and there’s no way they’ll be able to get it back. All of the senior year traditions -- gone. And there are a number of graduates whose job offers have disappeared.

There’s plenty of downside with the situation at hand. But every cloud has a silver lining. No one in the education space will forget about these graduates. It is most certainly the start of a new era, and with that comes opportunity.

Different Can be Awesome

Just because graduation won’t be an in-person experience doesn’t mean it can’t be meaningful in multiple ways.

For a start, today’s advent of technology is in many ways a great equalizer, making the most inspiring speakers more accessible to all. Wouldn’t it be cool to have LeBron James host your graduation with a bunch of other stars? Yea, probably.

Looking to aim high for your commencement speaker? Apple CEO Tim Cook and actor Tom Hanks addressed Ohio State University and Wright State University students virtually. How about getting a goat to join? No, not Michael Jordan -- an actual goat. They probably have plenty of wisdom to share with all the graduating seniors.

Some of the biggest companies out there are finding ways to embrace and support this year’s graduates, like Facebook. The Class of 2020 is anything but lost - they’re being more celebrated than ever, just in different ways.

Get Connected to Graduates Now

For alumni professionals, this is a crucial time to reach out to rising alumni who will be a part of your ever-growing community. With everything going on, it may be easy to forget one of the most powerful benefits of attending any higher education institution -- the alumni network.

It’s up to alumni relations directors to find ways to display this value to graduates as soon as possible. Some graduates receive a firsthand look at the value of their alumni community during their years as a student, but many aren’t entirely aware. Alumni professionals sometimes take it for granted that community members know they can reach out to fellow alumni.

Don’t make that assumption -- spell it out for them so they’re aware of all the resources at their fingertips. One dues-based program, Penn State, is offering a complimentary three-month membership.

Alumni Engagement Will Be Changed Forever

Strategies for alumni engagement are always evolving. They are specific to each institution, but today all organizations in all industries are aligning their tactical plans to virtual engagement and experiences.

When we’re used to connecting with others in a face-to-face situation, it can be hard to find ways to connect through the screen. Whether we prefer one or the other, we don’t have a choice at the moment, and online gatherings will be an integral part of our new normal moving forward. If you’re looking for a few ideas on how to engage and communicate with constituents online, we have some suggestions.

The benefits to meaningful alumni engagement are clear. And one of the best ways to boost alumni engagement over time is to simply listen to your constituents and find out what they need. Some are adjusting to the virtual environment just fine, while others are struggling. A simple survey can help you discover ways to connect people at both ends of the spectrum - and help the entire network.

While recent studies show that not all alumni networks are providing value for the institution, having frank discussions internally about how you can accomplish this for your alumni will lead to better engagement and more long-term support. This is exactly the problem we are working to solve at 360Alumni. We help our clients empower both students and alumni to connect with not only one another, but also with potential employers, professors and you.

Collaborate with Other Campus Departments

It’s always been important to form meaningful professional bonds. COVID-19 presents an opportunity for the Class of 2020 to hone their outreach and communication skills even more as they get ready to enter the real world. Use this chance to connect students with alumni, the career development department, company partners, and any other connection specific to your institution that will help them cultivate their networking skills.

The Class of 2020 is finding their way through a situation we never imagined for any graduating class. Don’t let “forgotten” or “lost” be part of their storyline. They are the first class of a new era - the pioneers of full digital engagement in the year when everything changed. Alumni engagement professionals have a unique opportunity to be the catalyst for a new level of engagement via valuable private communities built with their interests and needs in mind. Don’t let the Class of 2020 be your lost class - empower them to be the Most Connected Class of a New Era. 360Alumni is ready to help you make that happen.

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