New College Night Out series strengthens alum ties to each other and the college

all photos courtesy of Charlie Lenger

In a new effort to keep local alums connected to each other and to the college, the New College Alumni Association (NCAA) began a New College Night Out series in March.

“They are alumni gatherings which we’re going to be hosting the third Thursday of every month,” Alum Coordinator Sarah Thompson (’06) said. “Each gathering is hosted by a different alum who contacts us and … picks whatever spot they want to — their favorite restaurant or bar — and they’ll pay for the first round of drinks for everyone [and] usually some appetizers or what have you.”

According to Thompson, the gatherings are laid-back, informal and organized by whoever wishes to host, with no cost on the part of the NCAA. Generally, someone from the alumni association will begin the event with a few words to give an update on campus events.

“It’s just an opportunity to allow [alums] to hear what’s going on at New College, get some updates [and] meet and connect with some alums in the local area who they haven’t realized are still around town,” Thompson said. “And then to do a softer sell to them of saying here are all the reasons why it’s important to stay connected and keep up with us, the alumni association, and maybe even make a gift to the annual fund, which … helps our overall budget for the college.”

As only two Night Out events have taken place so far, Thompson said they have yet to see if the series will help promote alum gifts to the college.

“It’s more like a long term plan sort of thing,” Thompson said. “It definitely helped with the Giving Challenge because we were able to talk a little about that and …  I know some alums gave as a result of that, which was great.”

To help keep alums involved in campus events, the Night Out attendees receive gift bags, Thompson said. The most recent gift bag included the newest Nimbus issue, a letter about new NCF President Donal O’Shea and updates on the NCAA programming.

Thomspon said about 10 to 15 people have shown up to each event so far. The first was hosted by Associate Provost Raymonda “Ray” Burgman (’91) at Main Street Trattoria on Mar. 15, the second by NCAA Board Chair Rob Lincoln (’77) at Buffalo Wild Wings on Apr. 19 and the next will be hosted by NCAA board member Cindy Hill (’89) at Beckham’s on May 17.

“Right now, we’re definitely filling up with board members … but we want to expand it out and have more alums host in a wide variety of locations,” Thompson said. “We’re hoping to grow a little bit to get closer to 25 or 30 [people] consistently to each one.

“It’s a good group [and] there are a lot of different ages,” Thomson said. “If there is a tendency, it seems to be around the [classes of the] ’70s through the ’90s era and there’s less of the two more extreme ends of the spectrum [so] I would like to get a couple more older [alums] and a couple more younger [alums].”

Thompson said she plans to keep these events running throughout the summer and for as many years as possible. As most of the gatherings are in places that serve alcohol, only alums are invited in order to avoid the risk of underage drinking. However, Thompson said the NCAA is currently working on another initiative to strengthen the ties between students and alums.

“We’ve been working on restructuring the way that we organize our alumni because right now … we do gatherings based primarily on location and we’re kind of changing that model … to focus on characterizing alums by profession,” Thompson said. “One of the areas that is sort of weak right now at New College that we think we could really help with is Career Services and efforts in that regard for students and for young graduates. So we’ve focused on three main areas: business and finance, law, and health care …. because those are … the areas with the most alums that are the most organized already. Then we’re going to try to expand it out from there and so this is also part of that initiative too.”

This restructuring, which is still in the works, will allow students to network with alums in different fields and receive career advice. Thompson said she hopes to work more on that program next year.

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