In this episode, I talk with Dr Maria Gallo about the role university alumni can play in enhancing formal and informal learning. She has over 20 years’ experience in higher education leadership and advancement roles in Ireland and Canada.
She has a brand new book entitled The Alumni Way: Building Lifelong Value from your University Investment that will be published on 30th September 2021. Dr Gallo is also the Founder of KITE – Keep in Touch Education, which is an alumni research services company that focuses on the transformative potential of alumni connection.
Maria starts the conversation off demystifying the concept of the ‘alumni grinch’ when we think that our alumni associations and organizations only want monetary contributions from us after graduation. We evaluate our identity of ‘alumni-ness’, and the importance of shared connections and ties that makes networking through alumni relationships vital. Maria shares how giving back of yourself helps students to see a clearer vision of that relatable role-model in professional and business practice.
Maria talks about the impact that her own father’s experiences as a first generation university graduate had on her, and the positive influence that being an engaged alumni had on him personally and professionally, as an educator. This fueled her passion for researching alumni lived experiences on all sides of the spectrum. She looked deeper into the policies and practices of alumni organizations to learn from the challenges that many face in maintaining successful and sustained engagement, and has developed best practices for implementing positive alumni relationships for universities worldwide.
Maria has a new book coming out very soon that has been a long labour of love for her. The book, The Alumni Way: Building Lifelong Value from your University Investment, which is incredibly warm and engaging. She believes that the ‘way’ is this idea of a journey that we spend so much time and energy in education before we ever step foot onto a university campus.
Her book reads like an intimate and passionate conversation between Maria, the author, and the reader, as a college graduate that begins to think ‘what now’? This book is about helping others to discover the ‘alumni self’ and the four key traits of an informed and savvy alum, and working through the process of Reflection first, then Curiosity, Passion and Generosity before jumping in to give back and engage. It’s a book that should be read by anyone who has graduated from college or university.
Maria talks about the impact that the ‘extraordinary ordinary’ alumni can have on student experiences in university. Alumni associations need to reconsider who they highlight in their alumni connection newsletters and magazines because more graduates identify with the ‘extraordinary ordinary’ alumni stories than they do with reading about the CEOs, VIPs, and uber rich/successful alumni that are often interviewed and highlighted as people of note. Every alumni has an interesting story and important contribution to university development and student learning experiences.
Maria shares some great links and recommendations for inspiring your vision to get involved, connect or reconnect with your alma mater nationally or internationally. Her parting words of wisdom for listeners? ‘It isn’t just who you know… but who knows you!’ Develop your alumni relationships. Get involved, stay engaged, and tap into the potential of your alumni network to achieve the life you want through those important connections. It’s never too late. Come #ListenAndLearn