Ever since Baylor alumni began gathering together for fellowship back in the University’s early years in Independence, one theme has remained unchanged across generations of graduates — a deep love for the institution that has played a transformational role in their lives.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Baylor University,” Phil Lakin, BBA ’89, MBA ’99, who is serving as this year’s president of the Baylor Alumni Board of Advocates, said. “The University and the many friends I made during my student years have been a lifeblood to me over the three decades since I first graduated.
“While a student, I pledged that I would do anything for Baylor. As an alumnus, I want to keep that commitment by doing anything I can to keep Baylor strong and growing in its mission of education and service through leadership.”
A longtime resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Lakin serves as CEO of the nonprofit Tulsa Community Foundation and as a member of Tulsa’s city council. He volunteers his time as a member of the Baylor Alumni Board of Advocates, a group that is providing a guiding voice to Baylor’s increased efforts to engage the entire Baylor alumni community in a mutually beneficial relationship.
“These key alumni leaders are driving our strategy and our community-building,” Amy Armstrong, Baylor associate vice president of alumni engagement, said. “They do not have a fiduciary responsibility, but they are a representative body that takes the concerns and interest of alumni seriously and are speaking into our operations and goal-setting on an ongoing basis.”
Lakin said, “Our goal is to be accessible and available. We want to empower alumni to come together on a grass-roots level in the manner that best fits their schedule and addresses their interests. It isn’t a top-down organization.”
One of the first things the Baylor Alumni Board of Advocates helped the University determine is the name under which Baylor’s enhanced alumni engagement programs should operate.
Their solution has the genius of simplicity — Baylor Alumni.
“We wanted to be bold and proud, and we soon came to the realization that the name ‘Baylor Alumni’ was perfect for how we should identify ourselves,” Lakin said.
The new board and name are representative of the excitement and vigor with which Baylor is growing the programs and services for alumni across the nation and around the world.
The University’s overall philosophy is that alumni are best served when they are engaged in ways that are most meaningful to them and in the most convenient manner, whether that is through self-organized groups in cities around the country or by programs administered through Baylor that draw alumni back to campus.
“Baylor is taking a collaborative approach with alumni with an emphasis on creating a long-term relationship that engages them in the life and progress of the University,” David Rosselli, Baylor vice president for advancement, said. “On one hand, Baylor needs the united support of alumni to be successful with the Illuminate strategic plan and the Give Light comprehensive philanthropic campaign that has come to life under Dr. Linda A. Livingstone’s leadership as president. On the alumni side of the equation, we want to provide alumni with meaningful services and connections with each other. We are one united Baylor Family, composed of alumni with varying interests, degrees, professions, and viewpoints.”
Armstrong said the Baylor Alumni Board of Advocates, organized in September 2018, has contributed significantly to the concept and design of the Baylor Alumni brand, with its members — many of whom have been involved in alumni activities for years — providing insight about how the various regional chapters or other groups that have existed in the past can be brought together under one umbrella.
“One of the innovations they have helped us implement is to host class reunions on campus throughout the fall semester rather than have the reunions clustered together during Homecoming weekend, when the schedule is often so busy that it creates conflicts,” she said.
As part of its University-wide alumni relations program, Baylor has developed an extensive network of groups across the nation organized by academic and professional interests, regional locations, and common affinities, such as women’s groups or parents of current students. With the help of more than 700 local volunteers, Baylor has organized more than 1,200 events on an annual basis.
Under the expanded Baylor Alumni initiative, the variety of opportunities will increase for members of the Baylor community to come together wherever they live, work, or play, with more flexibility beyond specific academic divisions.
“We will offer programs and activities based on the professional involvement and interests of alumni more than on what type of degree they have,” Armstrong said. “Our goal is to help focus the energy and passion of Baylor Alumni for each other and for the University.”
A point of emphasis within the new branding initiative is to develop the ability for alumni to plug into resources and activities online. In addition to a mentorship program that allows alumni to help current students or recent graduates with professional networking, the University is exploring ways to offer resources that are exclusive to alumni but don’t require individuals to be part of a group to participate.
“We also want to provide access to Baylor through technology,” Armstrong said, noting that an initial experiment will be direct streaming this fall’s Pigskin performances to alumni gathered in venues in four cities: Denver, Nashville, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C.
Baylor also is exploring avenues for offering career services for alumni, such as the University currently provides students.
“Alumni embody Baylor’s values of Christian higher education and its practices of compassion and service, and in that regard they are the greatest ambassadors the University has.”
Alumni are encouraged to connect with each other through a wide range of Facebook pages for different groups of alumni and friends who share a hometown or a professional or personal affinity. Through this and other resources, Baylor Alumni hopes to foster the growth of strong alumni communities from east to west, providing professional development opportunities along with more social components.
“The lifelong relationship between alumni and their alma mater is vitally important to the University’s future,” Rosselli said. “Alumni embody Baylor’s values of Christian higher education and its practices of compassion and service, and in that regard they are the greatest ambassadors the University has. We want to help them carry that Baylor spirit to ever greater heights.”
Anyone interested in learning more about Baylor Alumni, whether regarding the various programs available or possible service on the Baylor Alumni Board of Advocates, is encouraged to email BaylorAlumniPrograms@baylor.edu or call toll-free 1-866-281-9444. Learn more about the expanded program at baylor.edu/alumni.