Alumni outreach at the University of Alberta

A little over a month ago, Avenue Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2009 was announced and I was fortunate enough to make the list. So many people have said “congrats” in tweets, wall posts, emails, and other messages, and I really appreciate all of them, thank you! I was somewhat surprised, however, to receive a letter and a follow-up email from the University of Alberta’s Office of External Relations.

The letter itself was fairly standard, and basically said that as I am a graduate of the University they wanted to offer congratulations. The email was from Jen Panteluk, a Development Officer at the Office of External Relations. She invited me to meet for coffee, and I happily accepted. We met at Credo Coffee yesterday afternoon and had a great chat about what I do, what she does, and about social media and the University of Alberta.

I learned that Jen is meeting with as many U of A grads on the list as she can, and that the idea to do so was hers. Alumni Affairs rightly or wrongly has a reputation of only reaching out to alumni when they are able to contribute back to the University financially. Jen decided to do something about that perception, and that’s why she pitched the idea of meeting with the Top 40 Under 40 grads. I think it’s fantastic!

Jen and I talked about social media quite a bit, and how effectively local schools are using it. Slowly but surely the various U of A departments are starting to embrace social media. For instance, you can keep up with Alumni Affairs on Twitter and on Facebook. There’s a long way to go, however!

If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #ualberta for U of A related stuff. SU President Kory Mathewson and his colleagues are hoping it becomes the standard, because it’s less ambiguous than the rival #uofa. Makes sense to me!