On Saturday 20 January 2018, the Ivy Circle organized a day-long Forum on Alumni Leadership, led by Mark Dollhopf, former Executive Director of the Yale Alumni Association, now advisor to several international universities on alumni relations and development.
The event was hosted by Wharton alumna Marsha Plotnitsky at the Merchant House (a contemporary art gallery and cultural meeting place) in Amsterdam.
With 30 alumni from 13 Ivy Circle schools in attendance, Hollis Kurman, Chair of the Ivy Circle, opened the day. Paul Broholm, member of the Ivy Circle Advisory Board, introduced Dollhopf with a quote from Nathan Hale (American Revolutionary hero and Yale alumnus) on one of the Yale buildings: “I wish to be useful.”
Dollhopf distributed resources manuals and proceeded to lead the group in a stimulating discussion of the challenges and possibilities in alumni relations. His key message was that while maintaining strong alumni relations is a prerequisite for a great institution, those relations are based on a meaningful sense of belonging. Universities that work to identify what has meaning for their alumni (rather than for themselves), and to build opportunities for alumni to be involved in meaningful ways, will be successful in alumni relations. Even for alumni of prestigious universities such as IC member schools, a focus on status or exclusivity is ultimately empty and self-defeating. In summarizing ‘what alumni want’, Dollhopf pointed to the importance of making the shift ‘from success to significance’, offering alumni opportunities for personal growth/development; community; and giving. Ultimately, cultivating alumni relations and engagement requires time and personal relationships.