On a bright Thursday afternoon, five Fort Wayne graduates gathered in a cozy diner for a Share YOUR Voice session. Some came during lunch break, decked out in blazers and nametags. They filtered through the door one at a time—all coming from different directions, all in different walks of life. But as we sat down around a family-style table and started talking about the Fort Wayne campus, the edges of those differences began to blur.
Photo via Michael Mortensen
All of our visitors graduated within the past 10 years, and all reside locally. One married couple brought their young daughter, who laughed at all our jokes and distributed hugs around the table. By the end of the hour our little group felt like a close-knit community.
Young alumni tend to be cutting edge. They balance career and ministry, family and church involvement, and somehow seem to manage it all. But the fast-track keeps them busy, making it hard to reconnect with college friends. This makes the Resource Center important: it “does the work” for them, in a way, by facilitating connection and communication among younger alumni. One alumna suggested creating an online forum where alumni can discuss issues relevant to their lives, such as parenting, schooling, and professional networking.
Several alumni around the table represented TUFW’s nontraditional students: commuters, long-term students, married couples, etc. Embracing these “nontraditionals” was something the campus was known for. Words like “family,” “welcoming,” and “history” were used to describe the Fort Wayne campus community, peppering the discussion between bites. “I haven’t forgotten why I went to TUFW,” one alumnus said. “It’s about the ‘we’-ness.”
Something we didn’t expect to hear was that these young alumni found that, as time goes by, their nostalgia for the Fort Wayne campus and its people increases. They are growing more interested in class reunions now that their college days are gilded with time. The Resource Center team is always concerned that interest may dwindle. But as we heard from alumni, the opposite is true.
One alumna expressed the need for more connection, and the others immediately chimed in with suggestions. First, they would like to be aware of who’s in the area—two of those at the table didn’t even know they lived a block apart! In addition to connecting with local alumni, they expressed interest in receiving updates on former faculty. The faculty-student relationships at Fort Wayne were incredibly influential for these alumni, and they suggested featuring a “Professor of the Month” as a way to keep in touch.
Lori Craw-Current g04, another young alumna, paid the Resource Center a visit later in the afternoon. She remarked that she was amazed by the work being done at the Center, but she also observed that the alumni themselves have a role to play in keeping the community alive. “Alumni can readily be a part of growing our Falcon pride,” she said, “[even] without having the school there anymore.”
Back at the diner, amid laughter and enthusiasm, someone noticed the clock marching forward, and realized it was time to wrap up. One by one they headed out the door in separate directions. In the midst of their varied, busy lives, they had an hour of connection, and the result was a stream of creative ideas that will carry the Resource Center closer to its goal to care, connect, and celebrate. These moments of connection are what we’re all about; and with alumni taking the lead, we hope to help rekindle these relationships that will last for years to come.
What ideas do you have for how to reconnect with alumni spread out around the country and around the world?