A university’s alumni are one of its most valuable assets

Alumni help shape TRU

I had the pleasure recently of attending two TRU AlumNights—one in Victoria and the other in Vancouver.

We host these events regularly in various locations across Canada. In the past, we have arranged events in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Ottawa, to name a few. These events are intended to bring our graduates together to meet with us and each other. They are fun nights that provide a comfortable atmosphere where attendees can share their experiences and achievements since leaving TRU.

We also use these events to update our alumni about new developments and projects at TRU. These events are just one way we strive to maintain strong relationships with our alumni community.

Some might wonder why bother. What is the point of maintaining contact with former students once they graduate and move on? It’s simple, really. The value of alumni to a university is multi-faceted and significant, creating both tangible and intangible benefits.

To begin with, there is no stronger testament to a university's quality than its thriving alumni. Witnessing our graduates excel in their careers, lead their communities and positively impact society is a powerful endorsement for TRU and the value of post-secondary education. Successful alumni elevate an institution's reputation when they achieve prominence in their fields. This enhanced prestige helps TRU attract students and top-tier faculty.

Last November, TRU recognized five alumni with Distinguished Alumni Awards for outstanding achievement, leadership and public service. These individuals—Caroline Cochrane, Joshua Gottfriedson, Aleece Laird, Kuljit Minhas, and Greg Stewart—exemplify leadership, achievement, and service and have made significant contributions to their fields and communities.

Honouring exceptional graduates has been a tradition at TRU since the inception of the Alumni Association in 1995. Over the years, we have recognized more than 100 TRU alumni in such a way. The list of those recognized reads like a “who’s who” of Kamloops civic and community leadership. Many have gone on to serve in government and all its forms of public service. Some have become lawyers and judges, doctors, professors and researchers.

Many of our alumni now work at TRU, which is perhaps the greatest reward someone who works at a university can receive—to see those who once sat in classrooms as students go on to achieve great things and return to TRU to continue the educational cycle. More than 800 TRU employees are alumni.

There is no doubt TRU alumni influence society in many ways, including by example. Success inspires others to pursue similar paths.

There are other ways that alumni prove valuable to a university as well. Alumni often serve as mentors to students, offering career guidance, sharing industry insights, and helping with professional networking. This mentorship can be incredibly valuable for students during their school years and early careers.

Alumni can be tremendous advocates for the university in political, social, and economic realms, potentially influencing public policies and securing support for higher education. Their professional achievements and influence can lead to strategic partnerships between universities and industry.

Alumni engagement can also provide crucial feedback for institutions seeking to change, grow, and improve. Equipped with real-world experiences and perspectives, alumni offer valuable insights to ensure programs and initiatives remain relevant. This input is vital as universities work to keep pace with evolving professional landscapes and job market demands.

At our recent alumni events in Vancouver and Victoria, we asked attendees to provide their thoughts and perspectives about the development of TRU’s first-ever Strategic Internationalization Plan. Their input will inevitably shape the direction this plan takes.

Not to be ignored, alumni contribute financially through donations and endowments that enhance the university's resources, fund scholarships, improve facilities, and support research initiatives. These contributions are crucial for the university’s development and the expansion of its programs.

Alumni embody the long-term impact of education on personal and community well-being. Their journeys showcase the transformative power of higher education and reinforce the importance of investing in student success. To learn more about the services we provide to our alumni community or ways to connect as a TRU alum, visit https://www.tru.ca/alumni.html.

I look forward every year to the opportunity to engage with our alumni and share the richness of their successes. Our next event, will be in Williams Lake on May 30, where our alumni community is especially vibrant and engaged. We’re hoping for a great turnout, and I am looking forward to touching base one more time with our remarkable network of graduates.

Brett Fairbairn is the president and vice-chancellor at Thompson Rivers University. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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