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Bridging gaps across space and time

March 28, 2003

By Hannah Lodwickp>

If Dr. Randy Lofgren had his way, Baylor graduates who live on the West Coast easily could correspond and meet other alumni with similar interests on the East Coast. It would come as a result of Imperative IX of Baylor 2012, a goal aimed at 'enhancing the involvement of the entire Baylor family.'

Lofgren, the associate vice president of alumni services, said contacts made through the department will help Baylor achieve Imperative IX.

'Most alumni work had been geographical, and then people started to work on it chronologically,' Lofgren said. 'Now we come to the modern age, and it's not necessary to live in the same area. The information technology is what will drive the whole new dimension. You can have a physical reunion built on a virtual experience.'

The Internet has helped create a new model in alumni involvement. Thirty years ago, alumni associations existed as independent entities, providing purely social context for members of an institution. Lofgren said now the key to Baylor Alumni Services involves determining what graduates value.

'It's a challenge,' Lofgren said. 'We believe the alumni experience can be geographic, chronological and based on an affinity. We must know our graduates well enough to know how they relate to each other. It's a three-dimensional matrix.'

While alumni used to reunite to give back to the university, recent graduates want to take advantage of their investment. Lofgren said an alumni service shouldn't expect a 40-year-old alumnus to remain involved in the university if it doesn't pertain to his life.

'It's a case of cause and effect,' Lofgren said. 'A university that is living up to its potential has to live up to input from its stakeholders. It's difficult to imagine a Tier One university becoming that way without involving graduates.'

In order to reach Baylor's more than 100,000 alumni, Alumni Services has set four goals: to communicate with each alumnus at least 16 times each year, to produce an effective career development tool, to provide service opportunities and to offer continued education, recertification, seminars and special interest groups.

'We can't always plan a get together and say, 'all of you come,'' President Robert B. Sloan, Jr. said in an interview with Baylor Magazine. 'People don't connect like that anymore. We don't want these activities to originate from us. What we want to do is find out what they're doing and then facilitate and enrich those connections.'

A second aspect of Imperative IX deals with what administrators call the 'Bears for Life' approach. Also known as 'cradle to the grave,' the plan seeks to engage potential and current Baylor students, while relating to graduates in all walks of life.

Jerome Loughridge, chief of staff to the president, said that to compete as a Tier One institution, Baylor must communicate with potential students earlier than it does now.

Loughridge said events like leadership camps locate and develop leadership potential in prospective Baylor students, and publications like Baylor Magazine provide essential exposure to the families of current students.

'The very best schools begin the recruiting process much before the junior year in high school,' Loughridge said. 'We want folks as low as junior high to know about Baylor.'

Administrators believe connections between older and recent graduates will continue to increase and strengthen as well. Loughridge said alumni networking helps increase the value of a Baylor degree.

'There's a mutually symbiotic relationship between young job seekers and established alumni,' Loughridge said. 'People want to hire Baylor students, and Baylor students want to work for people who went to Baylor. They just don't know how to get connected. That is a beneficial relationship we can strengthen.'

Besides including graduates and potential students in the Baylor family, Imperative IX seeks to interact with the Central Texas community, Christians, government and members of higher education institutions.