The Power of Alumni
Graduation is one of life’s milestones – an exciting time when those who have just received their degrees feel as though the world is at their feet. But, in Slovenia at least, it has sometimes been a somewhat isolating time; a time when job searches begin with little support and contact with fellow graduates is lost. It’s a tradition which the country’s growing network of alumni clubs is trying to erode.
In Western countries, membership of an alumni association after graduation is almost taken for granted. Yet in Slovenia and the rest of Central Europe the situation is somewhat different. “Having a strong sense of belonging to one’s faculty in these regions is rare,” says Urška Vrščaj Vovk from the Faculty of Economics Ljubljana.
If Slovenia’s institutions are to really become world class then many feel that is a situation which needs to be reversed.
“Alumni networks are an amazing chance to make new business ties and find new business and professional opportunities,” argues Iva Eibel, head of Alumni Office at IEDC-Bled School of Management.
“It is a platform for further personal development. That means that understanding the relationship between faculty and graduate is vital – it needs to be a reciprocal relationship. The graduate must want to return to the faculty to take part in activities organised by the school, or come back as guests or lecturers. And from our perspective, alumni are a key way in which we connect to and collaborate with the business world.”
IEDC-Bled has long been convinced of the importance of good relationships with its graduates. It established its first three alumni clubs in 1992 to stay in touch with international studies students, enable them to share experiences, and help them build important business ties. Today the school has 14 clubs all across Central and Eastern Europe and plans are currently underway to establish a fifteenth organisation – in Africa. The 3,500 club members from 70 countries have a chance to connect, exchange ideas and share intellectual, social and career opportunities.
“In Central Europe, the IEDC alumni club is definitely one of the most international business school graduates’ clubs. And as already employed managers educate themselves here, it is an excellent opportunity for creating high quality international business links,” says Eibel.
The Faculty of Economics is equally convinced of the value of alumni networks though it is a more recent newcomer to the party – its first club was established last year. Members have access to a database of their fellow graduates; are invited to all faculty events, including social ones; and receive popular newspaper Alumni.
“The main goal of our alumni club is to create a stimulative and positive environment that creates added value for the graduate, the faculty, companies and consequently the economy,” says Vrščaj Vovk.
The club currently has around 7,000 members. Students are encouraged to join immediately after graduation, and those who finished their studies before the club was established are also invited to get involved. And the best graduates can join another club – the elite Beta Gamma Sigma Club (BGS). That’s thanks to the Faculty’s recent accreditation by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
“BGS is an honorary association of the best business science students and graduates. Its mission is to upgrade academic excellence and encourage personal and professional growth of its members through networking and creating various opportunities,” Vrščaj Vovk explains. “We are the only school in the region that offers its students the same opportunities that the best students from top business schools in the international environment have.” Members have access to the most successful graduates of elite schools, scholarships and exchange programmes.
Business and Pleasure
Alumni clubs link their members in formal and less formal ways. The IEDC clubs organise seminars, conferences, “especially interesting are international traditional events, such as sailing regattas, sports events, business breakfasts and many more,” says Eibel.
At the Faculty of Economics “we organise discussions, seminars, lectures, social meetings and also a traditional postgraduate students’ dance, golf tournaments and concerts among many other events,” explains Vrščaj Vovk.
With the growing importance of networking and international experience, joining an alumni club can be a ticket to new experiences and also a possible boost for the wider economy.
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