Alumni as Brand Ambassadors

This October I will return to Beijing to attend the China Annual Conference for International Education – or CACIE (http://www.cacie.cn/cacie/english/index.shtml). I am returning to speak at CACIE’s Forum on International Student Mobility (ISM). The Forum theme is “International student mobility and study-in-China — a global perspective”. More than 400 professionals from international offices and faculties will attend the forum.

The International Education Exchange Journal is published by the China Education Association for International Exchange.   (http://www.ceaie.edu.cn/index.html) with a readership of 2000 people across China. CEAIE has invited CACIE speakers to submit comments in advance.

I am excited to partner with Mr. Wang Yong, Deputy Director of International Office from Peking University another representative from UIBE (University of International Business and Economics, China).

For the Journal, I have submitted the following session description and am asking participants to think with me about some important considerations:

  “Alumni as Brand Ambassadors: the Advantages of an Exuberant and Connected Network”

International outreach can be much more successful when institutions involve their most genuine brand ambassadors – alumni. Their personal history with the academic institution is of incredible value to prospective students and families. The session will help institutions develop a strategic process to leverage international alumni abroad for student recruitment. These steps include developing relationships with not just alumni but regional alumni organizations, institutional student recruiters, community organizations, and more. Learn about best practices abroad and assess your institution’s next steps.

In advance of this session I am asking participants to step back and consider some key considerations that impact an institution’ ability to develop alumni-student networks:

1) Demographics

What do your demographics show? Where are your target markets for international student recruitment? Is there a correlation (or a growing correlation) between an increase in prospective students and engaged alumni poised to help? Why does this matter?

2) Current levels of Satisfaction among Alumni and International Students

A recent article captured the key findings of a new survey completed by 60,000 international students representing 48 institutions in the US, UK and Australia:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/08/20/new-survey-offers-insights-international-student-satisfaction-three-countries)

“…While students were by and large satisfied, the data show variations by country of origin. Students from Europe report higher rates of satisfaction and willingness to recommend the institution as compared to their peers from Asia: ‘It is notable that China ranks #1 in terms of number of international students, but #26 among the thirty largest nationalities on overall satisfaction, and #21 on recommendation’ (that is, willingness to recommend the institution).”

The report suggests possible causes for these variations: “for example, greater familiarity with English may help explain higher satisfaction rates for students from India compared to students from East Asia, and particular cultural traits such as comparatively open-minded or critical outlooks could also affect student ratings.”

Other key findings reported and important to consider:

“Beyond country of origin, the analysis also found variations in satisfaction level according to level of parental education: the higher the ratio of first-generation college students within the international student population, the lower the overall satisfaction rate. The report states that first-generation international students — who at some institutions in the sample make up nearly 50 percent of the international student body – are more likely to be culturally, academically and financially disadvantaged, which may lead to a less rounded and more problem-beset experience, and lower satisfaction.” These students and families may not have access to sound information or be “more susceptible to suspect recruitment practices.”

The report states that students are generally very satisfied with the academic experience and quality of teaching. But outside the classroom, satisfaction levels are a bit lower: “making good contacts as far as career prospects are concerned, friendship with domestic students, organized social activities, and visa or immigration-related advice.”

As I read the above findings I believe institutions have an opportunity (and a responsibility) for developing structured programs that will foster relationships between international alumni and current international students.

But, first, how satisfied do the international alumni feel about their own experience? How do they view the brand of their alma mater and the value of their degree?

Therein lies an equation: satisfied international students = greater likelihood for satisfied alumni. Alumni must be engaged today. Identify who they are, where they reside and work, and invite them to participate in creating more satisfying experiences for their younger counterparts who are university students today and those who desire the same opportunity to study abroad.

 

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