Getting More Involved
By Brian Krisberg ’81
First Vice President, Columbia College Alumni Association
I recently attended a dinner on campus for a student organization.
About 50 alumni and students attended, and the speaker and the food
were quite good. Everyone enjoyed the evening.
I sat next to a College alumnus who graduated about 20 years ago,
earned a J.D./M.B.A. and is a partner at a major law firm. This
person, who had been an extremely active undergraduate outside the
classroom, told me that he was looking for ways to “get more
involved” with the College.
His remark struck a chord and got me thinking. If this person,
who had a positive experience as an undergraduate and is a loyal
Columbian, was searching for ways to get more involved at the College
20 years out, how many other College alumni are there throughout
the country (and the world, in fact) thinking the same thing?
There is no model for getting more involved with the College community,
no single way to do it. Each of us connects with the College in
a way that is both singular and personal, based upon individual
experiences, and simultaneously universal and collective, based
upon a desire to perpetuate the excellence and shared values (such
as the Core Curriculum and need-blind admissions) of an institution
that played a vital role in shaping our lives.
There are at least five different ways
of getting more involved.
Now, cynics among us will contend that getting more involved is
merely a smokescreen for raising more money from alumni. There is
no denying the fact, nor is there any shame in acknowledging, that
Columbia needs to broaden the participation rate of alumni donors
and to grow the College’s Annual Fund in absolute dollars.
Great private institutions rely on voluntary support for their existence.
Progress has been made in both these areas in recent years. College
alumni have exceeded Annual Fund targets each year as our participation
rate also increases.
Getting more involved defines the vitality and strength of one
of the finest undergraduate colleges in one of the greatest universities
in the United States. It demonstrates our alumni’s desire
to continue their relationship with a special institution, in appreciation
of their positive experience at Columbia. Finally, it shows our
belief that by sharing with today’s students how we used a
College education to enrich our personal and professional lives,
the College will be an even better place tomorrow.
It is easier than ever to become more involved. The College administration
has created a user-friendly environment where alumni can efficiently
and effectively connect with Columbia’s many events, offices
and organizations. All alumni need do is respond to one of the many
mailings and e-mails we receive (Hint: If the College does not have
your or a friend’s correct mailing or e-mail address, get
it to the Alumni Office by calling toll-free 1-866-CCALUMNI or e-mailing
join the rapidly growing Columbia E-Community for alumni (https://alumni.college.columbia.edu/ecom)
or call or write to the College office or organization that interests
Maybe this is all still too amorphous or nebulous, and a brief
description of how we as alumni can engage would help. In broad
terms, there are at least five different ways of getting more involved.
First, there are alumni relations programs such as the Alexander
Hamilton Medal or John Jay Award dinners, reunion event planning
and attendance, Homecoming, Dean’s Day in New York or College
Days around the country and local Columbia Club events, among others.
The College Fund enlists alumni as Class Agents, and Columbia
College Today’s class correspondents help classmates
stay in touch with one another as well as with the College.
Second are campus events. Be it an intercollegiate athletic event,
the Varsity Show, a performance by one of the many campus
arts groups or Community Day, the Columbia community benefits when
alumni support students and their activities.
Third is the Alumni Representative Committee. It’s not humanly
possible for the College Admissions staff to interview more than
15,000 applicants each year, so alumni are called on to help in
this important role. Interviewing high school seniors, and getting
the word out in communities about how well the College is doing,
are important services that alumni provide. It also is rewarding
to meet and get to know potential members of the next class of Columbians.
Fourth is career services. Alumni can help students get the most
from Columbia’s Center for Career Education. Offering internships,
summer positions, permanent jobs and career advice to College students
and young alumni will generate dedicated active alumni for years
Fifth is student interaction. Providing insights to undergraduates
about alumni experiences after our years on campus through Student/Alumni
programs, including the family meals program and “grandfather
class” events, shows how a College education provides the
foundation for a fruitful life.
This brief discourse demonstrates the breadth and depth of ways
we can participate in and contribute to the life of the College
as we wind our way through the adventure called adulthood. Speaking
from personal experience, my efforts to get involved in the College’s
life have been some of the most satisfying experiences of my life.
The College is an exciting place to be these days, and it is receptive
to alumni involvement from all generations.
A post-script: In future columns, we’ll be writing about
a variety of issues of concern to alumni, including the issues the
College Alumni Association Board of Directors is working on. A new
slate of directors, led by President Bob Berne ’60, has taken
office through spring 2006, and we’re eager to hear from you.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us; you can reach me at email@example.com.