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“Alumni – Alma Matters”: Why universities and their alumni need each other now more than ever

2023-11-08 09:14:00

An interview with Dr. Serge Sych, Vice President, Stakeholder Engagement about the alumni relations and career development strategy and his new team here at Corvinus.

Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem

What brought you to Corvinus?  

With over 25 years of experience in higher education, I joined Corvinus after serving as the Vice President for Student Enrollment, Alumni, and Career Programs at Central European University (CEU). CEU moved to Vienna a few years ago and has recently undergone some organizational changes. I wanted to stay in Budapest for family reasons. Corvinus’ vision to establish robust alumni and careers programs and become one of Hungary’s most international universities made my decision easy. I am fortunate to be joined by experienced professionals and my former colleagues, Cristina Bálint-Nagy and Sandra Fekete, who manage career development and alumni relations programs, respectively. 

What motivates you professionally and what are you passionate about?  

I am passionate about education, mentoring, storytelling, and creating impactful experiences for diverse stakeholders and communities. The nature vs nurture debate fascinates me, especially concerning human development, learning, talent management, and career trajectories. My doctoral dissertation explored constructing professional identities, delving into how much we shape our jobs and how much our jobs shape us. 

What’s your ambition?  

Our ambition is to create the best-in-class alumni and careers program in the country. We aim to achieve this by providing unique experiences, stories, services, and philanthropic opportunities for our alumni, students, and employers. Together with the Corvinus community, we strive to build thriving alumni and student communities. We firmly believe in the infinite connection between alumni and the university – each alumni journey, both professional and personal, reflects the reputation and success of this institution. Likewise, the university’s achievements and brand significantly impact our alumni’s career trajectory and beyond – we matter to each other! 

What is in it for alumni?  

For our alumni, we aim to enable connections to a global network of professionals, fostering community spirit. We take pride in amplifying alumni success stories across our network and empower our graduates through lifelong learning opportunities within Corvinus. We provide avenues for alumni to impact our community by contributing their time, talent, and treasure through various volunteer opportunities. 

For many of today’s students, this is the first time they hear the terms alumni and career development. How do you get started in this situation?   

Indeed, many of today’s students encounter the terms “alumni” and “career development” for the first time. To address this, we initiated a pilot called Alumni from Day One during the freshmen onboarding week. We’re planting seeds for future alumni engagement, explaining our plans to empower students by sharing career opportunities and providing guidance. We’re focused on educating our Corvinus community, seeking input from them to positively contribute to their needs. Through a thorough listening tour, we’ve met with stakeholders, mapped existing and future alumni networks, and gained insights into the University’s needs and how alumni and career development can support them.  

Were you able to test your assumptions, so to speak, by meeting alumni and having some early wins, perhaps? 

Yes, we have not only been listening, discussing, and planning, but getting out there and doing things too! In the past six months, we have organized or co-organized various alumni and career events, among them several international ones, off- and on-campus. We estimate that we have directly engaged more than 500 alumni and 200 students. More than 2,000 graduates have joined our alumni records system in the 22/23 academic year, showcasing the growing alumni network at Corvinus. Our new Class Gift fundraising initiative with the Jubilee Reunion classes is underway, with progress reports expected next year. 

These appear to be promising first steps. What kind of challenges have you encountered during your first months at Corvinus?   

Beyond earning the trust of the diverse Corvinus community and finding authentic ways to engage with students and various generations of graduates, we need to continue building a professional team. Our team is redesigning internal processes, developing new communication strategies, establishing a career development area, and building a robust data management system. Collaborating with teams across the university, these efforts ensure sustainable and effective alumni and careers programming, benefiting the Corvinus community. Ultimately, this will enhance the university’s brand, reputation, and potential for revenue generation. 

What kind of activities do you plan for this Fall? How can our community members get involved?  

This fall, we’re launching a Homecoming season, organizing reunion events for specific academic programs, cohorts, and an all-encompassing Alumni Day, allowing everyone to return to campus, meet university leadership, and reconnect. To strengthen our alumni network, we’re recruiting members for university-wide and program-specific alumni steering committees. We’re also seeking volunteers for various roles, including career assistance, spreading awareness about Corvinus, and serving as contacts for alumni cohorts or international chapters. Regardless of where our alumni are in the world, we tailor these opportunities to match their interests and community needs. 

If you or someone you know are already part of such volunteer work, are involved in an active alumni group, or are interested in contributing to these types of activities, please get in touch with us!   

You cycle to the University every day. Is this a hobby or an ecological commitment?  

Another passion of mine is integral health. Any type of sport and physical activity is one of the key ingredients of wellbeing. And, of course, it’s nice that bikes do not pollute, and it saves money on the commute. If anyone is interested in health, longevity, and life-work balance topics, let’s start a peer-support thematic club and podcast. Let me wish each of you good health and peace! 

 

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GEN.:2024.05.28. - 07:51:45