Fritz Schroeder, executive director of alumni relations and annual programs, says the inherent challenge of his position is forging a sense of community among an alumni population spread throughout the world. The solution: Well, if you can't always lure the graduate back to the university, why not bring the university to him?
To that end, Schroeder, who assumed his current post 18 months ago, has spearheaded efforts that enable alumni to stay in contact with the university and each other. Specifically, this has meant an increased focus on alumni chapters and means of electronic communication.
"The fact is that only 10 to 15 percent of Hopkins alumni physically come back to any part of the campus during a calendar year," says Schroeder, who was previously director of annual giving. "So our regional chapters provide the opportunity for more face-to-face interaction between alumni. From the first day I took office here, I felt we needed to do more to bring the university to people, both around the country and around the globe."
The results of the Office of Alumni Relations' new focus are an increase in the number of off-campus events, a retooled Web site, a searchable alumni database and a soon-to-be-launched electronic newsletter geared for alumni.
The university now has 44 active alumni chapters, 35 of them domestic and nine international. Last year, these various chapters hosted more than 120 events, ranging from Major League Baseball games to private museum tours and from crab feasts to more formal dinners. Roughly 4,000 people attended alumni chapter events in fiscal year 2000.
In addition to focusing on regional chapters, Schroeder also felt the flow of electronic information between the university and alumni was critical. As part of this effort, the alumni Web site has received a major overhaul to make it more user-friendly, and HopkinsNet, a searchable online directory of all Johns Hopkins alumni, was introduced last fall. Through HopkinsNet, users can access information about one another, such as addresses, phone numbers, job titles and other details.
"Each person can tailor the information so it shows only what he or she wants to appear," Schroeder says. "We also left room for more personal notes, so they can put, 'I like to skydive,' or whatever else it is they want to say about themselves." The telling statistic for Schroeder is the 11,000 alumni who have already logged on to the site to register and update their information.
HopkinsNet is a way for classmates to keep tabs on each other, Schroeder says, and is also a great networking tool. The user can perform a search by name, geographical location, graduating year or major. Schroeder says the database is particularly useful for alumni who relocate, or for Hopkins physicians seeking other specialists in their field.
"Let's say a local physician, an orthopedic surgeon, has a patient who is moving out to San Francisco. He or she can go into HopkinsNet, check to see if there are any board-certified orthopedists from Hopkins in the area and perhaps make a referral based on that information," Schroeder says. "We designed HopkinsNet that way specifically with School of Medicine alumni in mind."
Schroeder says he would like to take HopkinsNet one step further. He foresees alumni soon being able to customize their own Hopkins alumni page, which would be configured to display only information relevant to the person's major, occupation or location.
The Office of Alumni Relations will soon unveil its new monthly electronic newsletter. Co-created by the university's Office of Communications and Public Affairs, it will contain such items as general university news, a schedule of upcoming alumni events and links to Hopkins publications and hot JHUniverse sites.
Schroeder says that while the success of the recent initiatives is very encouraging, expect even more to come. "We're certainly not done yet," Schroeder says. "The Office of Alumni Relations is continually seeking to build on its proud history and enhance its outreach efforts."