01 Jun 2006

Job One: Alumni Engagement

HBSAA Board assesses alumni needs and expectations
by Peter Cooper


I am often asked, “What does the Alumni Board do?”

HBS professor Mal Salter, senior associate dean for External Relations, describes us as a “working board.” Our forty-plus members — past and present volunteers and active alumni from around the globe — meet in Boston three times a year to undertake committee work, recommend initiatives of interest to alumni, and provide feedback to the School from an alumni point of view.

For the 2005–2006 year, the board’s main goal has been to recommend ways to strengthen alumni engagement with HBS. From the alumni perspective, this involves examining expectations for programs and ser-vices, evaluating what HBS already offers, and helping to improve marketing and communications. From the School’s perspective, the importance and influence of a vibrant, engaged alumni body has significance for all HBS activities, from reunion attendance to membership in HBS clubs and associations.

Our committee work has examined a number of School-supported efforts designed to engage alumni and students.

The Student Outreach Committee, chaired by Bennie Wiley (MBA ’72), has recommended ways to increase student–alumni interaction, as well as to enhance student knowledge of the resources available to them once they graduate.

It has become clear to the board that most alumni are not aware of the broad array of resources and programs made available by HBS. The Alumni Engagement Committee, chaired by Jacqueline Heslop McCook (MBA ’84), has assessed alumni needs and expectations, using valuable information from the ongoing MBA and Executive Education surveys. Those surveys helped the committee identify program ideas targeted to specific age groups. The committee also developed a set of “alumni engagement metrics” to track responses and to continually fine-tune the School’s alumni programs and how those programs are communicated.

To my knowledge, HBS has the most extensive clubs and associations network of any graduate school. The Clubs and Associations Committee, chaired by George Novak (AMP 153, 1997), focused on three areas. First, it recommended strategies to help clubs promote, maintain, and grow their membership, including use of unique club-only benefits and incentives. Second, the committee recommended ways to make the HBS Alumni Web site a more comprehensive tool kit and source of information for club officers and volunteers. Third, a subcommittee examined the structure and approach of the Club Officers’ Roundtable held at HBS each spring and recommended several changes, including a name change to Clubs Leadership Conference.

The HBS Global Leadership Forum has built amazing momentum following blockbuster conferences in Shanghai (2004) and London (2005). The 2006 GLF will be held in Washington, D.C., June 20–22, and the program looks exceptionally interesting! The theme this year is The Private Sector and the Public Interest. The GLF and Centennial Committee, chaired by Saquib Shirazi (MBA ’95), is working with HBS to provide ideas on the design and scope of the School’s yearlong centennial celebration planned for 2008 and to recommend a global conference strategy beyond 2008.

Next year’s committees will pick up on several of these challenges. As we begin thinking about the agenda for the year, I invite all alumni to contact me to identify topics you would like the board to consider.

Peter Cooper (MBA '75)
President HBS Alumni Association


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