Last week, I made my annual pilgrimmage back to my alma mater, Winona State University. I usually try to make a day of it. Speak to a couple classes (that’s me speaking to Tom Grier’s Media class below). Visit with a few professors. Meet with the alumni folks. And, stroll around the campus (which is much different that my days there from 1991-1996). Oh, and I also try to get in a bit of work.
I try to give liberally of my time since I don’t give a lot of money to my alma mater. Time is money, so I tend to think that’s fairly valuable. And, by speaking to classes and kids, I just think there’s more impact there. At least that’s how I feel.
What about you? Do you give back to your alma mater? Keep in mind, there are many different ways to give. You can give your time. Your money. Your ideas. It all counts–and it all helps. Give the following ideas a try as you think about what you can do for your school:
Speaking at a class
Here’s the key with this one: Don’t wait for them to come to you. Go ahead and give one of your former professors a call. Ask them if they could use a guest speaker in the coming semester. Chances are, they’re looking for guest speakers, they’d love your perspective and they’d also probably love to catch up with you. If you live close to your alma mater, this one’s a no brainer–and doesn’t take a ton of time.
Skyping with a class
For those of you who don’t live close by to your alma mater, what about Skyping with a class? It’s guest speaking–just through a computer. You miss the face-to-face dynamics, sure. But, you can still have impact as the stories and anecdotes you share from the “real world” are exactly what they need to hear–and things they’re not getting in the classroom from week to week.
Set up a scholarship in your name
Hat tip to Allan Schoenberg for this idea, who has a scholarship in his name at Central Michigan University. It’s the gift that keeps giving. Sure, it requires some up-front money, but with a little set-up, you can organize a financial situation where it accrues enough money year-in and year-out so your contributions are minimal after the initial gift. And, ask Allan how much the kids (and parents) appreciate it. He has some wonderful stories of how he’s actually kept in touch with the kids after graduation. Powerful stuff. Legacy stuff.
The obvious choice. And believe me, your alma mater needs that money. They’ll put it to good use. In fact, if you ask enough questions, they can probably even tell you exactly what they’re using your gift for on campus.
Help organize an alumni event in your community
The great part about this idea is it helps you (you get to reconnect with old friends) and it helps your alma mater (getting more alumni involved means increased awareness and opportunities for future generations to attend your alma mater). For example, I plan to help organize a mini-reunion of sorts for my WSU crew this spring/summer as part of an existing WSU alumni event here in the Twin Cities. The only work on my end? A few emails or Facebook messages. The payoff? I get to see an reconnect with a bunch of folks I haven’t seen for ages. And the university gets a bunch of alumni re-engaged that may be otherwise “falling off the grid.”
What about you? How do you give back to your alma mater? Any creative ideas I’m forgetting?