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In 1939 the Hofstra College Alumni Association was formed, and its first meeting took place in June of that same year on the east porch of Hofstra Hall.
The first graduating class at Hofstra College wasted no time organizing an alumni effort to encourage former students to stay involved with their alma mater. In 1939 the Hofstra College Alumni Association was formed, and its first meeting took place in June of that same year on the east porch of Hofstra Hall. Though the alumni framework has gone through many restructuring efforts over the past 70 years, alumni have always been a vital and influential constituency at Hofstra.
As 2008 came to a close, the governing body of Hofstra alumni -- the Hofstra Alumni Organization --readied for a major transformation. According to Immediate Past President Joseph Sparacio '89, this latest reorganization is one that "will help the alumni body grow at the same pace as that of the University itself. My dream is for Hofstra to have an alumni network comparable to that of an Ivy League school. I think we have the mechanism to build that now."
For close to two years, Sparacio, the officers and assembly of the Alumni Organization (AO), and Hofstra's Alumni Affairs staff have been rethinking how to best serve the University's 115,000+ alumni around the world and how to reinvigorate alumni interest in Hofstra. There is renewed focus on providing professional programs for alumni, reaching out to former student leaders and those who participated in special interest groups on campus, and utilizing online tools to keep graduates informed and connected.
"It is time for us to start thinking as a national -- even an international -- body," says Sparacio. The AO looked at redefining its mission and ways to make it easier to communicate with alumni and get involved with Hofstra -- even from a distance.
Senior Director for Alumni Affairs Robert Saltzman says that new programs and events for graduates must now answer a key question: Will this involve more alumni? An event cannot be considered worth doing or successful unless it provides the opportunity for graduates to reconnect with the University.
Laurie Bloom '95, Sparacio's successor as president of the AO, sums up the philosophy of the group like this: "Everything that we do now has to be relevant, and it has to be meaningful. We're trying to keep it simple and focused. "We're looking at what's going on in the world right now -- what's happening in the economy -- we're reevaluating the types of services and programs our alumni need and how we can support them in their career paths. We're not looking to reinvent the wheel, but we're making changes so that alumni will find their connection to Hofstra much more meaningful and important.
"We have restructured how the Alumni Organization works," she says. "There are so many committees now, that any alum with an interest can get involved. We are working to revitalize alumni group chapters and would be delighted to speak with anyone who is interested in getting involved. We consider opportunities to connect with more alumni to be very precious."
Increasingly, these new opportunities to reach out have involved online social media. The AO has examined the impact of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, among others. The AO has also started cultivating online relationships with current students so that they'll stay in touch after graduation.
For alumni not as computer savvy, the AO still provides many occasions for face time with graduates. Bloom says, "There are many activities, and our committees meet very often. Those outside the area who want to participate can do so by conference call. We plan events for people with kids, older graduates with grandchildren ... we're even looking at events for singles."
Bloom admits that bringing alumni back into the fold sometimes involves a sales pitch. "Before becoming involved or buying into an idea, people always ask, 'What's in it for me?' Well, look at what Hofstra is becoming. 'What's in it for me' is a chance to reconnect and be a part of something that is so exciting and that is growing in leaps and bounds. Maybe you didn't have that when you signed on to come here as a student, but look at what you have now. Look at what your degree is worth now. Many of us, if we were applying to Hofstra today, might not even be accepted."
In addition to higher academic standards, Bloom and Sparacio agree that new developments such as the Hofstra University School of Medicine and Hofstra's hosting of the October 15, 2008, presidential debate have done much to instill pride in former Hofstra students and encourage them to reach out. "I think the excitement of the debate rippled out," says Bloom. "Anyone who is a Hofstra graduate felt tremendous pride. It was very real for our alumni and made them feel special."
Bloom says getting involved with the University is about more than fund raising. "I've met people who will be my friends for life, people who are well-respected in their fields. They are accomplished. I would not have met them if it weren't for this Hofstra network. We wouldn't travel in the same circles. I may be getting my foot in the door and they may be at the top of their game, but because we're in the same room, sharing our interest in Hofstra, it levels the playing field.
"Of course we would love to see 100 percent participation from our alumni. Giving is something people should rethink. It doesn't always mean giving a lot. Whether you give money or time to serve on a committee, here is what you can get in return: tremendous connections, opportunities, the ability to meet people who are mentors, people who can greatly impact your career and your life."
Bloom said this is an exciting time for alumni to reconnect with Hofstra. "People used to ask, 'What's Hofstra?' 'Where's Hofstra?' Now they know.
"People are now much more aware of Hofstra, and we at the Hofstra Alumni Organization see this as a tremendous opportunity to keep the momentum going and take it to the next level."
For more information about the new Alumni Organization and its more than 30 affinity and regional groups, visit hofstra.edu/alumni, send an e-mail or call (516) 463-6636.