The Office of Alumni Relations has a new director: Graham
Stewart 81. Stewart worked in public relations, marketing,
and advertising before returning to Ithaca College in 1993 as
coordinator of music admissions. He is also a regular entertainer
at campus events. He
met his wife, Tina Trombley Stewart 83, when they were
both undergraduates in the School of Music; they now have two
children and she works in the Office of Admission. Our editor
sat down with Stewart for an interview just before he moved into
his new position. Excerpts:
Ithaca College Quarterly:
Why did you apply for the position?
Graham Stewart: After
I had been in my current position for some time I realized that
there wasnt a logical progression for job growth. When
the alumni director job opened up it seemed the right time, the
right move, and a great opportunity. I had always been interested
in alumni relations.
ICQ: Why do you think
you are particularly suited to the job?
GS: Im an alumnus
and a current student. [Stewart is in the graduate communications
program.] I can talk comfortably and positively about Ithaca
because I have a truly deep affection for the institution and
I know and feel comfortable discussing its programs. And I love
talking to people.
ICQ: What about the tougher
aspects of the job the troubleshooting, talking to those
who may feel disconnected?
GS: Over the years I have
learned a lot about customer service. Ill do needs assessments,
listen to peoples concerns, and then do my best to address
them. Some people will want to see changes immediately, but we
have a huge constituency and cant lose focus on the overall
picture. Ive got to understand the constituency base and
get a feel for it before I act. Its also a matter of getting
the institutional goals clearly delineated and communicated.
ICQ: How do you hope to
open the communication lines with both administration and alumni?
GS: One of my administrator
friends said, "So, Graham, what they do there? Just put
Reunion together?" Theres a real lack of understanding
of what the alumni relations office does. We basic- ally need
a PR campaign!
Ill also get out on campus, meet with faculty. It is
clear the faculty are ready, willing, and able to participate
more in alumni relations. It would be great to get them in tune
with programs happening on campus so they can forward this information
when they communicate with alumni. Rather than just connect alumni
back to an individual, wed like to connect them back to
Technology will help, too. Seventy-five percent of our alumni
have graduated since the advent of desktop computers. Everybodys
dealing with e-mail, list serves, the Internet. Theres
a lot of potential: "Cant make it to Reunion? Download
the video and look at the reception."
But technology shouldnt dominate. We still need personal
contact. And the older alumni are always going to get our attention.
Theyre the ones whove had full lives and have good
things to share.
ICQ: Do you have any ideas
There are many people who feel fine about coming back
and having their group of friends get together, or just seeing
who shows up. But I like this scenario: We call a young alum
and say, "Before you graduated you gave us a list of 10
friends that youd like to catch up with 5 or so years down
the road. Well, weve called them all and were encouraging
them to come to Reunion. Weve got 8 committed. Do you want
to come, too?"
Before the current students 12 percent of our alumni
base graduate, we must identify their interest groups,
so that when we decide to put an event together we can tailor
it to their needs. Thats one reason why your Student Alumni
Association is so important.
There also has been talk about moving to a celebrated-era
program or a four- or three-year grouping, so youd also
meet people a couple of years older or younger. A lot of people
probably had friends who were seniors or juniors when they were
sophomores, for example.
ICQ: Another challenge
for you is rebuilding the alumni relations staff.
GS: Yes. The support staff
Anita [Costa], Cerise [Foster], and Melinda [Butler]
have done a wonderful job of keeping things running smoothly
during the last several months while working with an interim
My role is clear: Solidify the staff and then put a face on
the program, invigorate it, get out there, be an ambassador.
Bring the College to people if they cant come here
take a multimedia presentation, and give a well-formatted, thoughtful
overview of the College. Were not just about happy hours.