BJU Alumni Relations wants to get to know BJU graduates better so they can better meet grads’ needs. “The heart of Alumni Relations is knowing you because you matter. Not knowing you because of what you can do for us or what you can give back. But because you are a graduate of BJU. Because you matter to us, we want to provide value to you.” So said Director of Alumni Relations and Parent Engagement Chelsea Fraser.
Over the past several years, Alumni Relations has slowly been changing from the old Alumni Association model. The benefits of joining the Association remain the same, but grads no longer must pay a yearly fee to participate. This change in model has also been reflected in three new styles of events the Alumni Relations team is bringing to grads across the country.
First, Alumni Relations is making a move from the Friendship Dinners of the past to new Friendship Gatherings. The former dinners were typically held at a hotel or local church and hosted by a BJU employee. In contrast, the new Gatherings are emceed by a local alum. The venue is also no longer a hotel or a church but something more interesting, such as a minor league baseball stadium.
The first Friendship Gathering was Sept. 10 in Greenville, South Carolina. The venue was the Greenville Drive Champions Club at Fluor Field. The emcee was the one and only Jeremiah Dew, 2002 Mass Media graduate and local entertainer. JDew kept the event rolling and the audience rolling with laughter. The event, though there were a few hiccups with technology, was fun and allowed alumni to chat with friends or meet new people. An added bonus was the invitation to bring a non-BJU friend and introduce that friend to today’s BJU.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Friendship Gatherings is their focus. Said Fraser: “We want these to be about alumni and driven by alumni and what they want and value.” While not a departure from the previous philosophy, the Alumni Relations team is sharpening its focus on meeting the needs of BJU graduates.
The Alumni Relations office is also introducing what they’re tentatively calling “Community Invasions.” The first of these was Sept. 26 and a major hit. Because several BJU grads were involved in the production of Disney’s Newsies, Greenville Theatre partnered with the Alumni Relations office to offer a slight discount to BJU graduates on BJU Alumni Night. The cast included four BJU graduates and a former student—Sterling Street, Matthew Quattlebaum, Joel Dupont, Jack Sterner and Kate Riedy.
Not all Community Invasions will be theatrical performances. But they will be opportunities for BJU alumni to come together to connect to the Greenville community.
This year’s Homecoming & Family Weekend reunions will also see a bit of change. The Young Alumni Festival, though only three years old, will be a little bit bigger and a little bit better than the last two years. With T-shirts to color, pumpkins to paint and plenty of food to eat, this reunion for grads from 0–14 years lives up to its festive name.
The biggest change to the reunions is with the Homecoming Reunion Festival. This reunion is for graduates from 15–39 years. Fraser said, “This is a challenging group because we have families with small children as well as those who are a little older.” Five gathering stations have been planned to accommodate the large age gap, with family-friendly lawn games, a gift card drawing and a photo booth spread in between.
Also new to Homecoming this year is the Faculty and Alumni Reconnect on Friday. Returning graduates can rekindle relationships with former professors. Both actively teaching faculty and retired faculty and staff will attend.
For more Homecoming & Family Weekend information, visit homecoming.bju.edu.
While change can be intimidating, Fraser noted, “We don’t want to try new things just because they won’t be perfect. We would love feedback!” She welcomes questions and ideas from alumni. In her words: “I work for you.”