Four year loyalty vs. seven year's work?
September 3, 2008 7:24 AM   Subscribe

RelationsFilter: If you are a master's or doctoral graduate, what are some of the reasons you joined or chose not to join the alumni association of your graduate school?

More to the point:

1. Do you feel an affinity to your graduate school if it's not the place you also received your B.A.?

2. Would you rather get information about jobs and networking events in your field or get information about parties and other events thrown by the graduate school in your area?

3. If you received fundraising appeals from your graduate school, how did you respond to them versus your BA institution?
posted by parmanparman to Education (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I went to Texas A&M University for my PhD, which is famous for its fundraising and alumni-finessing. While my program and the professors I worked with were great, the vibe of the school (as a conservative magnet school) and its approach in rhetoric (pro-tradition, some kind of semi-religious exceptionalism) left me a little cold. Also, it's a rich school.

Thanks to facebook, I'm in touch with a lot of the alumni I knew, and at a remove, can easily access a lot of them I never did. Alumni past my department, I'm really not interested in.

I tend to ignore fundraising appeals from A&M, who nickled-and-dimed me on parking, fees for graduate students who didn't use things like campus sports, and other issues quite a lot while I was there. I'm more sensitive to appeals from my undergrad--though not out of brand loyalty or school spirit so much as from the fact that they, within their limits, did okay by me: small scholarships were forthcoming, and I paid no cash as an undergrad.
posted by LucretiusJones at 7:36 AM on September 3, 2008

I always give my undergraduate institution money. I feel like that school raised me, in a way, and I'll always write a check the same way I would give my mom money if she asked.

I worked as a teaching assistant or a research assistant for the entirety of grad school. All of my research was tied, in one way or another, to keeping funding or getting more funding, even though I brought in my own grant money thanks to the support of my undergraduate institution. It was a lot more like a place of work than a school to me and I can't imagine giving my own employers money without strings attached. So, I ignore all appeals for money.

However, I still have plenty of contact with my graduate institution and I attend the same conferences as most of the students and faculty. Most of my networking is done through the local business community, but I am still in contact with several faculty members.
posted by Alison at 7:41 AM on September 3, 2008

I got a lot out of my 6 years at Boston University, have great respect for the people I worked with, keep in touch with them, etc.

However, my approach towards Boston University as an institution was much more of "the big company that I worked for for 6 years", rather than "the beloved institution that helped me become the person I am."

Fundraising efforts at the graduation school level totally leave me cold. It would be like a former employer calling you up and asking if you wanted to donate!

posted by gregvr at 7:43 AM on September 3, 2008

I have a BA (4 yrs), MA (1 yr), and 3 months from a PHD (4 years). All different schools. I joined the alumni assns of BA and MA school. Will do that same for my PhD school.

1. I have some affinity for my MA school, but not nearly as much as my BA school. I have almost zero affinity for my PhD school. I like to receive the quarterly magazines from BA and MA schools to hear what people are up to and what often amazing advances in several fields that these schools are involved in.

2. I would be interested to read about jobs/networking events in my field but I pay much more attention to parties held in my area. My BA and MA schools are in different countries and I have attended alum functions in the opposite countries, which was really fun. (BA party in MA country and vice versa.)

3. I receive appeals from both BA and MA schools. I don't donate to either. They are both very wealthy schools already. (If I was forced to choose one to donate to, it would be the BA school.) I do donate, however, regularly to my high school appeal as the networking from there is far more useful to me than any university networking has been. Plus, I have the greatest affinity for my high school. Go figure.
posted by meerkatty at 7:43 AM on September 3, 2008

I graduated with a Master's degree last August, and so far have had nothing to do with the alumni association at my large, public graduate school (even though I am still living nearby and actually work on campus, though not for the school). On the other hand, I donate money every year to my small liberal arts college, read the alumni magazine, and generally keep up with the big campus news. I do feel something of an affinity for my grad school--they are what brought me here, and my fiance and many of my good friends are still students at the school. But my feelings for my college are much stronger and more personal--those 4 intense years! so many friends! such new experiences! etc. My graduate experience was fairly professional in comparison. I didn't live on campus or have as many deep friendships or crazy adventures.

I'd say networking with people from grad school is much more effective than with people from my college though, since I ended up with a Master's in a field not offered at the college. Plus, since I'm still in the grad school area and far away from my college, networking here tends to be more immediately useful.

I haven't given money to the grad school and don't really plan to at this point--it's a huge state school with a huge budget, and I'm not convinced that my (small) donations would have the same effect they do at the small college.
posted by Jemstar at 7:46 AM on September 3, 2008

1. I do not feel the affinity for my grad school (UVa) like I do for my undergrad (Duke). Part of the reason is that they are in the same athletic conference, and I saw the grad school as a rival before I went there.

But mostly, my grad school experience had very little to do with the actual university - my lab was 3 miles from the main campus (err..."Grounds") and of course you don't get the same rah-rah school spirit vibe that undergrads get. Living off campus, not being involved with campus groups, rarely attending games, having limited contact with other students, etc. Grad school was more of a job to me than an educational experience.

2. Jobs/networking, I guess - but I probably wouldn't go to any of them.

3. I toss fundraising letters from grad school but I have given small amounts to undergrad in the past. I also receive the alumni magazines for both schools, and toss the grad one while reading the undergrad one. Mostly for the updates on classmates.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:52 AM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also - I did not choose to join either alumni association. I get letters from both associations every year asking me to pay my $30 yearly dues or whatever, and I never do. They keep sending the magazines and fundraising letters, though.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:57 AM on September 3, 2008

I did not join any alumni organizations because I'm fucking pissed at the way I was treated as a student, both for B.A. and Ph.D.

While I appreciate the intensely high-quality education I received, I feel no affinity for the institution (where I earned both degrees; the B.A. at the university and the Ph.D. at the medical school). See above.

Networking events organized by the school are of little use to me because I currently live on the opposite coast; locally organized events in my field are more interesting and useful.

I give no money to either division of the school. However, they continue to send me their alumni magazines so I guess they're OK without my dime.
posted by Quietgal at 8:01 AM on September 3, 2008

I would consider giving money to my graduate department (particularly tied to something like extra support for impoverished students, because they helped me out when I was in a tough spot), but never in a million years to the university.

I tend to ignore fundraising appeals from A&M, who nickled-and-dimed me on parking, fees for graduate students who didn't use things like campus sports, and other issues quite a lot while I was there.

Although I've never even been near Texas A&M, this describes my feelings exactly. My department was great, but the university was miserable to deal with, spending most of their time (from my point of view) extracting money with regressive fees and creating paperwork hoops for me to jump through. The really galling part about it was knowing that the intellectual functioning of the university depended on the teaching and research I and other graduate students were doing, for fairly low wages; we were not treated by the university in ways that gives me warm fuzzies in my tummy when I think back on it.

I think you'd have to start by treating the grad students well and very consciously bringing them into the culture of the university in the ways that form affective connections; having them join the alumni association and give money would be a second step dependent on first treating them well.

I've just ignored the alumni association letters so far, without looking at them carefully. The strong impression I have (supported by friends who went to that institution as undergrads) is that the alumni association is for people who got their BAs there, and doesn't really have anything to offer graduate students. When I've looked at the alumni magazine, it supports that — lots of articles that are meant to lead you down memory lane for undergrads, but nothing that connects with my experience as a graduate student. Career and professional networking via one's department and via professional organizations; I'm not sure what the alumni association has to offer someone like me.

2. Would you rather get information about jobs and networking events in your field or get information about parties and other events thrown by the graduate school in your area?

Like many people with graduate degrees, my field is pretty specialized — I can't imagine a general networking event being of any use to me unless I wanted to switch careers. My department already does a lot of this sort of thing — is there something more that is being offered here?

I will add that between me and my partner, we have attended a fair number of schools. Some of them send out alumni magazines to everyone, and others only send the magazines to people who have joined the alumni associations. Guess which places we feel closer to? Getting the magazine every month or two is a really nice way to keep up with what has been going on, what the institution is doing, and so on. And of the magazines we get, there is one that makes a very careful effort to include articles and news that is of interest to people who graduated from the graduate and professional programs, rather than just rah-rah-homecoming-do-you-remember-that-tough-intro-class-rah-rah.
posted by Forktine at 8:11 AM on September 3, 2008

1. I feel some affinity toward the university I received my MS and JD from. I mildly dislike the law school itself, though I have somewhat fonder memories of the engineering school.

On the other hand, my wife earned her BA at the same university, and we still live in the same city, which may skew my perceptions somewhat.

2. Given that the law school was profoundly unhelpful in assisting me and many of my classmates in finding a job, I have no particular faith in the alumni association's ability to do differently. I might feel differently about the engineering alumni association, but that's not my field right now.

3. I give the same small amount to the engineering school as I do to my undergraduate school. I do not give to the law school (and can't wait for them to ask for money so I can tell them off). The university I went to as a grad student is absurdly wealthy, and I may stop giving to them entirely.
posted by jedicus at 8:31 AM on September 3, 2008

gregvr nails it. I mean, I do have lots of good memories of grad school, but I have just as many for Ernst & Young, really.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:35 AM on September 3, 2008

I have a BA and an MLS. I give no money to either school and went so far as to tell my undergrad institution to please stop sending me "money-grubbing letters" [ah to be a hothead 20-something again] and forget where I lived forever, which netted me a handwritten letter from the school president explaining that I was confused about how money works, the snob. So, to answer your questions.

> 1. Do you feel an affinity to your graduate school if it's not the place you also received your B.A.?

No. It was a totally decent school that is now a totally different school. I paid my own money to go there and was happy with the education I received. I feel that I can keep up with the alumni I'd like to see via facebook or, you know, email and I don't have the need to network with people otherwise. I may be remiss in this but I think it's a happy accident that I was able to succeed in my profession after the education I received at UW, not a direct outcome. I was service oriented AT school as well [hey I was on student government!] so I felt like I gave back at the time a reasonable amount.

> 2. Would you rather get information about jobs and networking events in your field or get information about parties and other events thrown by the graduate school in your area?

Parties and events, to me, only translate to cushier places for people to ask me for my money. Once I became involved with professional organizations, they became the place I would go to meet other people in my profession, mentor younger people in my profession, and get sloppy drunk with other members of my profession.

> 3. If you received fundraising appeals from your graduate school, how did you respond to them versus your BA institution?

I replied to them by asking to be taken off their mailing list. I live across the country from my grad school and it's possible if I lived in the area I'd consider joining the alumni association just so I could use the library there. I'd consider that a decent trade even with the extra fundraising appeals.

It's not that I'm not philanthropic and it's not at all that I disliked the places I went to school, it's just that I feel the same way about school fundraising as I do about NPR fund drives -- well-meaning people supporting good causes are creating overwrought false arguments for why I should be giving them more money than I have already given them.

I know this is how the game works and that I am a crabby outcast, but I do not enjoy the game, the game makes me angry about how money is used in this country, and I want nothing to do with this particular game. When I was making maybe 15K a year, getting letters from Hampshire College asking me for a "small donation" of two grand [I was a full tuition student so I was on the Big Ask mailing list] showed such a terrible carpet-bombing approach to fundraising that I vowed to never give them a dime.
posted by jessamyn at 8:52 AM on September 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you are a master's or doctoral graduate, what are some of the reasons you joined or chose not to join the alumni association of your graduate school?

I chose not to join because I really wasn't close with any of the people I went to school with. If someone wants to get ahold of me, there are plenty of ways to do it and I don't think that "oh yeah, we were in the same graduating class" is a good reason to get to know someone.

1. Do you feel an affinity to your graduate school if it's not the place you also received your B.A.?

No. Mostly this is due to the fact that it was pretty much a last-minute decision for me to even go to this school in the first place.

2. Would you rather get information about jobs and networking events in your field or get information about parties and other events thrown by the graduate school in your area?

No, and I wouldn't go anyways, even if I did get this info. I hate networking in person. (While I was there, they did attempt to try and host some small parties but they always failed.)

3. If you received fundraising appeals from your graduate school, how did you respond to them versus your BA institution?

Luckily my graduate school has pretty much left me alone (which would be about par for the course for the place) so I haven't given them anything. My BA school seems to feel the need to send out super chirpy reminders about every 6 months, which is fucking annoying. (My parents give them money but I don't because my ass is flat-broke most of the time. If I do give money, it goes directly to the speciality floor I lived on for 3 years and it typically goes towards alcohol.)
posted by sperose at 8:59 AM on September 3, 2008

1. I have an affinity to both for very different reasons. I am more active in the alumni group for the graduate one, though I participate in activities for both. My SO and the majority of my friends are from the BA one. I am on the alumni board for the school I attended within my graduate institution. I think it would be hard to pick which I have a stronger affinity to.

2. I prefer events and parties, or ways that I can give back to the school (mentoring a student, serving on a committee). Both of my institutions throw parties and events but they are usually too expensive to be worth our while. I prefer events that are or are less than $50 each, because by the time my SO and I go, it starts to be pretty expensive. Since we usually don't know who is going before we get there, it's a pretty big leap of faith. I found that people network better at the grad institution events. At the BA ones, everyone keeps to their set of friends and it is more challenging to meet people.

3. My BA does a lot of slick mailers. I hardly ever respond to them. I was solicited by a close friend that is the president of his city's alumni group for our BA institution, and I gave as a result of his solicitation to the area of his choice (athletics, which I didn't and still don't care about). For my graduate institution, I am usually solicited by typed and mail-merged personalized letter. This seems more personal to me and I have the most recent letter on my kitchen table with full intent to donate (conversely, a slick trifold arrived from the BA institution yesterday and I threw it away...hmm). Because I am on the alumni board, I am often solicited through that and am glad to contribute. Also, I am very close friends with the major gifts officer at my grad institution and am more inclined to give as a result of that relationship as well.

I do not respond to cold calls from the students, however, I once did that in college so I am always very nice to them before I send them on their way.
posted by ml98tu at 9:00 AM on September 3, 2008

I give to my undergraduate institution, Penn State. I usually limit my donations to purchase books and materials for the college of my undergraduate major. As much as I love Penn State athletics, I don't want my donations going to add more seats to Beaver Stadium. Love Penn State, give regularly and I am a dues paying member of the Alumni Association.

My MBA grad school - no. It's an abundantly rich, private school. Plus, they have this weird, sucktastic library policy. Only students within a college can use that college's library, e.g you can't use the law library if you are not in the law school. Plus, the libraries are closed to community. If your family member is at the medical center, you can't run over to the med center library and do some research. That chaps my hide, because knowledge shouldn't be locked away for people who can afford 40K in tuition. I probably wouldn't give anyway, but the library thing seals the deal.

I've also done graduate work at two other schools.
- Southern Methodist - they don't ask and I don't give.
- University of California, San Diego - current graduate student.
posted by 26.2 at 9:03 AM on September 3, 2008

I asked the missus why she doesn't belong to her alumni assoc. or otherwise contribute to her graduate school. Her answer...

"I spent more than enough money there getting the degree. They don't need any more of my cash. They're rich enough as it is."
posted by Thorzdad at 9:04 AM on September 3, 2008

1. I feel no affinity at all towards my PhD university.

I cannot imagine any circumstance, ever, where I would write a check to them instead of to my undergraduate school, my current employer if I retire here, or some local school.

2. I would ignore both if sent by my PhD university. They don't know enough about my field to send me useful information there, and I don't give a shit if 5 other dukies are having a party to kick off basketball season. Especially if you're mixing me in with undergraduates that I had positively fuck-all in common with when I was there.

3. I ignore both. But again, I could imagine giving money to my undergraduate school, but never in a million billion years to my graduate school.

Seconding others, my PhD university was a place of employment. Nothing more.

However, I might well respond positively to some kinds of fundraising from the department itself. Ie, so-and-so is retiring and we're establishing a fund for grad student travel in his name, or somebody died and we're establishing a small scholarship or award in his honor.

But double however, any such urge would disappear completely the instant I thought this was from the university instead of fully from the department.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:45 AM on September 3, 2008

I went to the same school for a BA and for my PhD. My MS is from somewhere else. I actually went back and worked at the place I got my MA.

Undergrad. Large Public, cheaper. Like Lucretius Jones, I got nickeled and dimed there. Fee fee fee for things I never used, and in some cases, never even saw. Draconian parking laws and an artificial scarcity of parking spots. I was also mugged on campus and I got zero by way of support from anyone. It was not that I needed it per se, but it would have been nice for someone to call and see if I was ok.

MS- a decent program but private, so expensive. I went back and worked there as a faculty and I then saw where they really put their money and resources. I would not give them a penny at this point.

Back to Large Public for my PhD. Cheaper. I was a GA and I got a pittance for working as much as I did while the school continued to try to get its football team off the ground (they started when I was there for undergrad). They are still abysmal. Lots of money in medical research, too, but a good lot of that was funded from corporations. So I don't really feel like if I gave them anything that I would see it used in ways I thought were worthwhile.
posted by oflinkey at 10:03 AM on September 3, 2008

Money. I love my alma mater. BS, PhD both at Michigan State. My wife earned her BFA there. We got married on campus. My parents (both MSU grads) met there while they were students. But I don't make enough money yet to spare any for the Spartans. Besides, I figure I paid them enough while I was an undergrad to last me a while before the guilt sets in. If I made more, or if I owed less, I'd likely cut a check, but for now I keep my donations small and local.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:35 AM on September 3, 2008

I, like jessamyn, have a BA and an MLS. I'm not a member of my undergrad school's alum. assoc., but I do donate money to the Friends of the Libraries and other campus groups that were good to me then. I feel a connection with them and I feel like the school helped me develop into who I am. I don't have anything to do with my grad school's alum. assoc., and deny their requests for money with prejudice. Really what I got from my grad school was a piece of paper that allowed me to go get actual training on the job. Plus it was a commuter school, so there was no real community built to begin with.
posted by marginaliana at 10:50 AM on September 3, 2008

I have never, ever wanted to donate to my undergrad and grad institutions. This includes getting tchotkes, clothing and bumper stickers. I donate to things that were good to me such as, Friends of the Library or to people who need more immediate help through organizations like Habitat for Humanity or emergency shelters.

My undergrad institution, yeah, shall I describe the president who rolled in on his golf cart and gave the same speech that he gave to a group of new citizens at the same stadium a week earlier? I know this since I was at that ceremony and all he did was replace some of the nouns, "As you leave here, [name of crap institution], remember us here, [name of crap institution]..." This was also the same citizen induction ceremony where they booted out school band members from playing celebratory music.

So, nothing, not even spit if they were on fire.

My grad institution did nothing really to foster spirit. So, meh.
posted by jadepearl at 12:43 PM on September 3, 2008

Late update -

We got back from a week's vacation on Monday night. We had fundraising letters from both schools in the mail. The ones from undergrad (my wife and I are both alums) got opened, glanced at, and recycled. The one from grad school was a giant piece of semi-flexible PLASTIC, without a triangular number stamp thing so that I wasn't sure if I could recycle it or not. This pretty much infuriated me.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:55 AM on September 17, 2008

I give to my BA and MA universities but not the alumni. I worked as a TA throughout both degrees (and still do in PhD), also worked as RA for a few professors and labs. Yes, this was a professional activity, me working for the department, them getting a good deal. But this is not what I remember of it (I mostly remember people, people I'd like to work with eventually, and those I sometimes believed they wanted it too), and it's not the most important: I have been helped financially and academically, and this is a good part of why I'm still here. So I give back to these universities, just to even out the promotions (as tiny as they are) I, from time to time, get.
posted by ddaavviidd at 8:47 PM on May 24, 2009

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