Tina Popson, assistant director of Recent Alumni and Student Programming, and Roz Parr, assistant director of Recent Alumni and Student Giving, go to great lengths to engage alumni in creative and diverse ways – whether it’s hosting coffee and conversation at Spielbound Café, planning a downtown pub crawl before a Bluejay basketball game, or sharing the inner workings of Creighton at the Recent Alumni Academy.
“We are trying to create a holistic program that engages people and educates them on how they can give back,” Parr says.
The Battle of the Grads, in its second year, challenged the classes of 2012 through 2016 to a six-week-long giving competition. Recent alumni received lighthearted and motivational videos via email featuring former classmates battling it out on the basketball court or stumbling through a three-legged race. The class with the highest number of alumni donors at the end of the giving period won, with the class of 2013 claiming victory this year.
Jill Fahrer, BSBA’16, a financial analyst at University of Nebraska Medical Center, represented the class of 2016 in the Battle of the Grads videos. Fahrer says she found meaning in giving back through this avenue.
“Creighton has a special place in my heart,” Fahrer says. “Staying active in the Creighton community is a natural thing to do because I like to be involved and I care about the University and its future.”
Battle of the Grads is just one of Parr and Popson’s initiatives. Popson stresses “if a major financial gift is not in your budget, there are other ways to be engaged.”
Volunteering time can have a major impact on Creighton students. One of the most popular events for networking with students, Java for Jays, centers on a Creighton essential —coffee. Current students meet with recent alumni and one faculty member in small groups to discuss specific professional topics such as technology, education and business. The first two events took place at Speilbound Board Game Café. The most recent one was at Aromas Coffeehouse in Benson.
Matt Seevers, PhD, associate professor of marketing and chair of the Department of Marketing and Management, was a recent faculty attendee at Java for Jays. He was astounded by the group dynamic.
“I might have asked a few questions to get it started, but within minutes I became a spectator. Everyone was engaged, everyone had something that they wanted to say, a question that they wanted to ask. The conversation took on a life of its own,” Seevers says.
This group dynamic, in part, came from the casual atmosphere of Spielbound. The location was by no means chosen by accident. As Parr says, “We are trying to make better ties with the Omaha community and get students out into the real world.”
As current students jump into the real world, alumni get a sense of fulfillment by giving back.
“Networking with students is something that recent alumni like to engage in because they’re the experts now. It’s a nice win-win situation,” Parr says.
Matt Novotny, BSBA’13, senior business analyst at Brightstar Corp, represented the class of 2013 in Battle of the Grads. As a member of the Omaha Recent Alumni Advisory Board, Novotny says that for him, staying engaged with his alma mater is important. He sees the value in networking to benefit Creighton students post-graduation.
“Giving back has shown me that as a recent alumnus, there is a lot that I can do to keep the Creighton community moving forward,” Novotny says. “And not long ago, I attended a networking event for current students and recent alumni. It was exciting to see and meet the next crop of leaders ready to put their Creighton degrees to use outside of the classroom.”
Alumni, such as Novotny, can continue networking in the future through the Recent Alumni Academy. The Recent Alumni Academy gives a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to run a premiere Jesuit institution, and the ways philanthropy is a crucial component for the success of Creighton and its students. Monthly meetings cover topics ranging from student life to research. Applications for the academy open soon with meetings projected to begin in September.
“We are hopefully building relationships with ambassadors for Creighton, who are interested in the University and being connected long-term,” Popson says.
Building and keeping those long-term connections begins by getting students’ attention in the last two years of their undergraduate career and within the first three years as recent alumni. Popson and Parr are engaging both current students and recent alumni through the Alumni Relations Office’s new trivia nights.
This year, the Student Leadership Cabinet, as part of the Creighton Fund that Parr leads, has hosted two trivia nights for students. Participants enjoy comradery and competition as they learn through the mix of typical trivia with philanthropic questions. Popson hopes in the future to craft an event where both students and recent alumni can compete together.
Post-graduation, one-third of all recent alumni live in the Omaha area, totaling approximately 5,500 graduates. To engage these Omaha residents, Parr and Popson have hosted a variety of local events, from a New Year’s Eve party to watch a Creighton men’s basketball game to a downtown pub crawl during Homecoming. As the weather warms, they envision an ice cream crawl designed for recent alumni with families.
“All recent alumni are not the same, everyone has different interests,” Popson says. Popson plays to the diversity of recent alumni, ever mindful to create something for everyone.