Courtney Spence on How to Increase Alumni Community Engagement

In Chapter 10 of 19 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive Courtney Spence answers "What Steps Are You Taking to Create a More Engaged Alumni Community?"  Spence details how her organization is creating in-person programs to bring her alumni together and strengthen the kinship and bonds across graduating years.  Courtney Spence returns to CYF for her Year 3 interview.  As Founder and Executive Director, Spence leads non-profit Students of the World to empower college students to use film, photography, and journalism to tell stories of global issues and the organizations working to address them.  Spence graduated with a BA in History from Duke University.


Erik Michielsen: What steps are you taking to create a more engaged alumni community?

Courtney Spence: So we’ve had about 300 alumni go through the program to date. And this last August we held our first Students of the World summit and we called it “re-engaged for good”. And it was really targeted at our alumni, we invited past partners and speakers, and thought leaders in the realm of, you know, film and communications and development. But we really focused on bringing together our core alumni. And it was the first time that we’d ever physically brought together our community into a space. And in a day and age where you have, you know, the ability to do Brady Bunch video, you know, calls through Skype or Google, you have all of these ways to connect with people virtually, I think what I realized in August was you can never – we will never be able to replace what happens when you bring people together in person. And there is such a need for that. And it’s – it needs to be done well and for the right purpose.

So when we brought our alumni together, whether it was listening to great speakers or having margaritas, I just got to see our alumni interact in ways that they had never have been able to interact before and the hugs and the tears and the enthusiasm that came out of that weekend was – It blew me away. And I recognize that, you know, whether or not they participated in Students of the World 12 years ago and went to Russia or they were in Tanzania last year, there’s a common experience that has been had and there’s a common thread for a majority of our alumni that make me realize that they need to know each other. They need that encouragement of that community. And we are the only ones that can provide that.

So we’ve really focused on building out an alumni board. We had a founding year of an alumni board that we selected and then this last year we actually accepted applications and we have a really great kind of diverse group of individuals that are committed to really bringing our alumni community together. And, you know, these are people that are wonderful, wonderful individuals that if I have to go war, I wanna go to war with them. And it’s really up to us to bring them together. So it’s been a big focus for us and one that I’m really excited to see grow over the next couple of years.