Brandman Alumni Association ready to welcome new graduates into the fold
Homecoming games; loyalty to fierce or charming or possibly bizarre mascots; buildings bearing the names of generous donors – those are the usual trappings associated with university alumni associations.
That’s not exactly the case for Brandman University’s Alumni Association. At Brandman, the emphasis is on staying connected, building relationships and expanding opportunities for fellow alumni and those headed that way, says Janine Lombardi, a founding member of the Brandman Alumni Association. There are no dues to join although they will gladly accept donations.
Reaching older, more established graduates who got their degrees when Brandman was Chapman University College has proved difficult because many are unaware of the name change and separate accreditation as of 2009. Many Brandman graduates, many of whom started at the peak of the recession and may still be recovering financially, aren’t yet in the position to be major donors.
That doesn’t mean they won’t be someday. And when they are, Lombardi and the Alumni Association board want them to feel connected to the university that helped them get started.
“We don’t have sports teams, homecoming events to rally around or even a centralized gathering place. But we have found that people feel a connection and usually it’s to their cohort,” says Lombardi, referring to the way groups of students share class after class as they work toward a degree.
Lombardi knows a great deal about networks and building connections at both Chapman University College and Brandman. She earned her B.A. in economics and communication studies from UC Santa Barbara and an M.A. in organizational leadership from Chapman University College, attending classes in Orange, in person, from 1996 to ’98. She kept that connection going by serving on the advisory board for the School of Extended Education.
But in 2008 when she started her own leadership consulting company, J9 Leading Solutions, she switched to teaching classes for Extended Education. “I like having all those connection points,” said Lombardi. “Teaching keeps me current on trends and the latest research in an ever-changing environment. And I can offer them what I’ve learned from clients.”
When the idea of creating an alumni association just for Brandman came up, the university tapped Lombardi to help shape a strategy. That eventually grew into leading the Alumni Association board, in part because she enjoyed the camaraderie that developed among the founding board members.
“The level of commitment of those founding board members has been unwavering. In these kinds of organizations, people often hop in and fade out. The commitment and strength of the board says a lot about Brandman,” she said. Having a strong founding group that has been thoughtful about including different geographic regions and people from all the degree programs will also help the association build participation.
For Lombardi, a successful alumni association would be one where new graduates not only join immediately but are also eager to jump in and volunteer.
“Our role is also to strengthen the brand, to create more opportunities for adults to expand their education and contribute to the greater community,” she said. To do that, fundraising efforts are focused on providing scholarship money not buildings and sports teams. “We’re never going to be USC and that’s not necessarily who we want to be.”
“My M.A.O.L. helped position me for career growth and gave me further credibility and confidence to take a really big leap,” said Lombardi. “It’s more about creating the life you want. It’s not about my degree earning me money. It’s that it has allowed me to live a life I love.”
The Alumni Association has held events in San Diego and Irvine. Their third reunion will be in Northern California in September. Lombardi hopes the next phase of the Alumni Association’s evolution will be creation of regional groups that are self-managed, giving people more local ways to volunteer and engage.
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