August 04, 2008

Launched a year ago, the Alumni Affinity program at Bucknell University has blossomed from a single pilot program to a robust collection of networks.

The Alumni Affinity program capitalizes on common interests shared by Bucknell alumni, students, faculty and parents. Traditionally, the University encouraged alumni to come together by class year at Reunion Weekend, and by geography through regional clubs. The Affinity Program broadens that scope and creates a way for all constituents to connect in other ways, for career networking or personal interest.

"Our three official Affinity Program types are Profession/Industry, Academic Interest, and Extracurricular Interest," said Laura Denbow, executive director of Alumni Relations and Career Services.

Networks
The Profession/Industry Program, called "Networks," was launched last summer by the Bucknell Finance Network (BFN), when 125 Bucknellians in finance gathered at Morgan Stanley in New York City. Spearheaded by Todd Singer '91 and Blake Sturcke '93, the BFN was formed "to enhance the relationship between the University, Bucknell students and potential employers on Wall Street," said Sturcke. A year later nearly 500 alumni are members of the BFN.

During its first year, the BFN also sponsored an On-Campus Connection Day that included a reception with CNBC's "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, a networking breakfast with faculty, alumni speaking in classrooms, a networking lunch with students, and alumni-led mock interviews for students.

The Bucknell Engineering Network (BEN) was launched last fall in cooperation with the College of Engineering and the Engineering Alumni Association (BEAA). The pilot event held in Washington, D.C., enabled nearly 50 engineering alumni representing a wide variety of industries, both within and outside of the engineering profession, to enhance their professional network while learning what's new at Bucknell University and in the College of Engineering. Additional events are being planned for 2008-09.

Sharing common interests
Since BFN and BEN launched, alumni, students, faculty and staff have collaborated on five additional networks: two that are active – Bucknell Consumer Products Network and Bucknell Health Network – and three future networks – Bucknell Government/Public Service Network, Bucknell Media/Technology Network, and Bucknell Law Network.

The academic-focused affinities, called "Connections," launched in January with EnviroConnect. The group sponsored a reception around a Washington, D.C., environmental forum attended by students majoring in environmental studies, as well as alumni who had an interest in the field – some who hadn't been re-engaged with Bucknell since graduating.

The guest list included 2003 Bucknell alumna Aimee Gallagher, who said, "Bucknell's EnviroConnect group allowed me to interact with current Bucknell students and fellow alumni concerning the impact of our carbon footprint. We were able to discuss ideas of how to better engage the Bucknell community in the 'green revolution.'

"The event undoubtedly led to new ideas, leadership roles and friendships. I look forward to taking part in Bucknell's affinity groups and I encourage my fellow alumni to actively participate and give back to Bucknell and our planet."

Student involvement
Many Bucknell academic departments are becoming involved in the affinity program connections by identifying several students as their representatives to alumni. Faculty who have embraced the concept are anxious to get in touch with their former students, and show them what their departments are focusing on now.

One of them is Jeff Manning, a junior majoring in education and sociology who is organizing an Academic Interest trip in November to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, where Nancy Kolb '62 is CEO.

The evening event, aimed at children of alumni in the Philadelphia area, will include a reception with Bucknell faculty and students in the education and psychology departments. "In fact," says Manning, "this will be one of the first events in the newly renovated home of the Museum in historic Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park, the site of the 1876 Centennial world's fair."

The Extracurricular Affinity Groups are being strategized with the hiring of a new extracurricular affinity manager, Jenna Tesauro, a 2007 graduate. These networks will bring together people through greek life, athletics, the arts, and many other areas.

Beginnings
The Alumni Affinity program grew out of the merger of the Career Development Center and Alumni Relations last July. "It's a wonderful networking opportunity for students and alumni in all stages of their career," said Denbow.

Each affinity group is formed around three common principles: annually it must sponsor at least one on-campus event, one off-campus event, and have a presence online through B-Link, Bucknell’s new online community. Within B-Link, each group can set up a site with group news, events, message boards, blogs, alumni, student or faculty spotlights, and photo albums.

For more information about the Alumni Affinity program, visit the Affinity Programs FAQ page in the B-Link online community at www.b-link.bucknell.edu/affinityFAQ.

Contact: Office of Communications

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