Fresh Perspectives, New Opportunities

April 1, 2010
Wish you were here: Young alumni and friends gather in Tiananmen Square in front of entrance to Forbidden City

Wish you were here: Young alumni and friends gather in Tiananmen Square in front of entrance to Forbidden City. Courtesy Duke Alumni Association

The Duke Alumni Association's (DAA) programming for young alumni, a group defined as those who have graduated from the university in the past ten years, includes a wealth of opportunities for recent graduates to engage with their peers, interact with older alumni, gain career and life advice from experts, and embark on educational travel adventures.

"The old model of young alumni programming was pub crawls and happy hours," says Kim Hanauer '02, director of the DAA's young-alumni and student programs. "But that's not necessarily how most young alumni want to connect to the university. They are more interested in networking, educational programming, and civic-engagement opportunities."

Wish you were here: Young alumni and friends gather in Tiananmen Square in front of entrance to Forbidden City

Wish you were here: Duke Connect portal. Courtesy Duke Alumni Association

Approximately 16,000 young alumni hold undergraduate degrees, and an additional 8,000 hold degrees from the graduate and professional schools—a sizable segment of the Duke community. Hanauer points to surveys conducted five years ago that indicated this group was eager to replicate the rich experiences they had as students, both in and out of the classroom. Since those surveys were conducted, Hanauer and her colleagues in the DAA and across campus have launched a number of initiatives aimed at meeting those needs.

For the past few years, for example, Duke clubs around the world have been hosting fall welcome parties for young alumni who recently moved to their areas. And there are a growing number of activities scheduled through local clubs and the broader alumni network that involve some form of community service, such as the new Duke Alums Engage events (see Duke Magazine, January- February 2010).

Young alumni can also take advantage of DukeConnect, the 5,300-member (and growing) database of alumni volunteers willing to offer personal and professional advice and guidance. And through a series of alumni presentations on the DAA website, young alums can learn about everything from paying off student loans to buying life insurance to jump-starting their careers with advice from alumni experts in fields such as publishing, finance, and politics and in the nonprofit world.

Hanauer says the DAA is also expanding travel offerings that appeal specifically to young alumni, such as a ten-day trip to China in 2009, two one-week programs at the University of Oxford this September, and an Amazon River expedition, also in September, led by Global Explorers, an educational- travel company cofounded by David Shurna M.E.M. '99 and Julie Ivker Dubin '94, M.E.M. '99.

"Young alumni want trips to places they can't easily get to themselves," she says. "If you want to go to Europe, you can put that together fairly easy on your own. But if you want to go to China or the Amazon with ten friends, how do you even begin to put that together? "

Starting with the 2009 commencement, the traditional DAA Last Day of Classes party was scrapped in favor of a week-long series of events. The revamped festivities include a climb to the top of Duke Chapel, a Forever Duke commencement kickoff cocktail party, a special celebration for graduate and professional students and their families in Duke Gardens, and receptions the night before, and morning of, commencement.

Looking ahead, Hanauer says there are plans to further refine and personalize opportunities for all alumni, particularly young alums. "Right now, when young alums move to a new city, they get a welcome e-mail message from the club president and notifications about the welcome party and club activities. We'd like to get to the point where we can match young alums with a specific person in a new city, based on common interests."

She's also working with the DAA's communications and technology-services staff members to further refine DukeConnect so that people can search by additional categories, such as involvement in nonprofit, religious, or volunteer organizations.