Establishing Traditions

Spring is getting closer, and we Midwesterners are realizing that there might be a “true spring” this year that begins as early as March. For a growing, relatively young university in the heart of suburban Detroit (adjacent to Chrysler headquarters and The Palace of Auburn Hills, home of the NBA Pistons) as of late March has fueled excitement for alumni rooting their alma mater during March Madness 3 of the past 7 years and it seems making the 64 bracket is becoming an expected ritual. More recently March has also brought the beginning of a new alumni tradition and community outreach: spreading the love of reading.

Oakland University is growing. One of the fifteen public universities in the state of Michigan, Oakland has seen enrollment growth each year for fourteen consecutive years. During that time OU also made the leap from division 2 Athletics to division 1 with a new Mascot and recently added a Medical School this fall.

Oakland is young! With the Charter Class in 1963 graduating 125 students, Oakland now has enrollment at 19,000 and is establishing traditions with the ability to build its identity and create its brand.

Oakland is unique in that a majority (2/3 of the nearly 90,000 OU alumni) lives and works within an hour radius of the Rochester campus.

During my time as coordinator of the Alumni Admissions Ambassador Program  we collaborated and created several opportunities for alumni to serve on campus and in their communities by sharing their OU story in the recruitment and yield of future students. One particular program that we began tied into our community’s need to spread the love of reading. Reading to elementary students by athletes, celebrities, and community leaders isn’t new, but creating a program that aligns our institution’s priorities and objectives by serving the community is a rich new tradition. We created the Grizzly Story Time Visit Program, which appreciates our history and envisions our future.

In collaboration with Alumni Relations (engaging alumni teachers) and Undergraduate Admissions (building the university brand with the mascot) we launched the program after our book (Hello, Grizz) was penned; a creative story of the Mascot taking a campus tour for the first time. What better way to serve our community than by reaching out to our alumni who are teachers or principals and inspiring the next generation in our schools. What better university branding than a sit down story with our institution’s Mascot and what more meaningful alumni engagement than going to your alum’s place of work and providing an opportunity for involvement and recognition.

We launched the program in March 2010 by visiting 10 schools. In March 2011 we visited 30. In 2012 the number is growing with thousands of elementary students being impacted each year. We welcome the sign of spring with a new community outreach and alumni tradition.

Follow Luke Fleer, associate director of Alumni Engagement at Oakland University, @lukefleer

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One comment

  1. Hi Luke– this sounds like a great program! Very inspiring to see how alumni can get involved with speading a positive message and support their alma mater at the same time. Best of luck to you and your team as this program expands :)

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