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Alumni Center prepares to host Big Chill Weekend, reaches out to URI graduates

By Nancy Lavin
On February 8, 2012


As Big Chill Weekend rapidly approaches, the Alumni Association at the University of Rhode Island continues working to keep alumni engaged in the community.

The weekend's events, which begin on Friday, include spirit tastings in restaurants around the state and the URI women's basketball game. It culminates in a silent auction-dinner event on Saturday night at the Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, which raises money for student scholarships at the university.

The department has been working with a committee of alumni to plan Big Chill weekend for more than a year, reaching out to roughly 106,000 total alumni, according to the executive director of alumni relations Michele Nota. The process includes searching for event venues and finding corporate sponsors and alumni to donate items for the auction, which range from weekend getaways to jewelry to local restaurant gift certificates.

Nota said the biggest challenge has not been the amount of work, but rather getting alumni to commit to coming.

"Because everyone is so busy it's hard to get them to come, especially the youngest alumni, who are super mobile," she said.

As a result, Nota said that the department has been trying diligently to diversify the ways they reach out to alumni, taking into account the cultures of each age group.

"We know that alumni are in so many different stages of their lives," she said. "An alumnus who's retired operates very differently from someone who just got out of college."

For example, as Nota explained, an alumnus who recently graduated from URI would probably prefer to receive an event invite over LinkedIn or Facebook, while older alumni may want a mailed letter or phone call. Nota said she thinks their efforts have been fruitful.

"We're not looking at all of them the same, and with that, I think we've been able to capture more information about them because we're engaging with them."

Nota added that the department has many ways to do this, including networking, family events, sports and community service. Though 44,000 alumni stay in Rhode Island, chapters of alumni organize these types of events throughout the nation, and even the world. A chapter in Florida, for example, has plans to go to the Red Sox spring training together this year.

The Alumni Association is also responsible for creating an alumni directory, which comes out online and in print every five years.  It takes the department about a year and a half to collect and organize the information, which essentially becomes a more professional yearbook, Nota said.

Additionally, the department works closely with Career Services to help alumni looking for jobs to connect with other alumni looking to hire. About two and a half years ago, the Alumni Association hired two people to work for Career Services, providing services specifically for alumni.

In the meantime, Nota advised current students, as the future alumni of URI, to remember the importance of keeping in touch with their roots.

"If [alumni] keep us up to date on where they are, we can try to meaningfully engage them wherever they are," she said.

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