First Alumni Weekend a success

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Photo credit: Anthony Wong
Photo credit: Anthony Wong
Photo credit: Anthony Wong

The re-opening of St Salvator’s Quadrangle was one of the most prominent events which took place as part of last weekend’s Alumni Festival.

The first event of its kind, the festival weekend saw alumni return to St Andrews to take part in 30 separate events. Though six of these were held by MUSA, the rector, University departments or the Development Office, the majority were hosted by student societies and sports clubs.

As part of preparations for the event, the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) recently passed a motion to allow all alumni free entry to the Union’s bars. A database of all alumni’s names will be collated, to verify past students’ identities and save them from paying the entry fee.

More alumni attended the weekend than have ever previously attended class reunions held in the summer, likely because it was held during the semester and alumni could engage with current students.

Charlotte Andrew, the Students’ Association’s newly elected alumni officer, said: “Many alumni were able to meet old University friends for the first time in many years and see the benefit their donations and their legacy have made to students already. Students were able to ask for advice from alumni in terms of career path, as well as receive reassurance that their time spent with various sports clubs, in choirs, economics society, debating or LGBT society, to name a few, would prove useful and be remembered with nostalgia in the future.”

All 44,000 alumni of the University were emailed by the development officer about the event.

However, many current students were unaware of the specific events taking place. This is partly due to the act that it was left to individual societies and sports clubs to advertise heir events to their members. The social media metrics for the event, seen by The Saint, show that though the Facebook event advertising the weekend was seen by 59,000 people, only 2,700 people actually clicked to look at the page and even fewer – 731 – clicked attending. Ms Andrew said: “There’s always more that can be done and marketing to current students is an area to be improved upon.”

It is hoped that the creation of a dedicated alumni officer and subcommittee will lead to more general publicity and awareness for next year’s event. Ms Andrew will take over the organisation of the event from Pat Mathewson, who came up with the idea this year, and Athletic Union president, Sarah Thompson, who both faced time restrictions due to their other responsibilities.

Asked which event she felt was most successful, Ms Andrew said: “The Athletic Union has a very efficient system of Alumni engagement, so many of their events were exceptionally well attended.

“The Quad re-opening had a very different atmosphere to events such as rugby and football matches, but its success was equivalent. Principal Louise Richardson’s speech and the novelty of the newly engraved flagstones (my personal favourite being the “Fierce Women” stone sponsored by the Feminist Society) created an atmosphere that provided reassurance that this Festival will become the newest of many St Andrews traditions.”

In the future Ms Andrew hopes to increase alumni engagement with the University in various other ways.

She told The Saint: “I intend to run several careers based events next year with talks and advice from alumni for students. I’m also looking into the viability of a rent-a-robe scheme, involving collecting donated gowns from alumni and allowing students to rent them for a day or an evening at a time from their halls or the Union.

“I’ve also had meetings with the development office concerning the potential of a crowd-funding platform similar to Just Giving to fund projects by student societies and subcommittees.”

Mr Mathewson said that the event was a great first attempt. He said: “The Festival Weekend was a very promising start to a new era of student-alumni engagement. Our ultimate goal is to extend the sense of community we share beyond our time here at St Andrews. We hope that being an alumnus will come to mean much more than simply being a donor, but rather an active participant in University life.

“As the festival grows over the coming years, meeting these challenges will not be solely the work of the development office, but rather an endeavour that engages and empowers a much wider group and at its core is driven by students.”

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