Since its inception more than 140 years ago, the Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA) has connected alumni to one another and the University. Over the years, the NAA has continuously evolved to meet the changing needs and interests of alumni through programs that spark intellectual growth, social bonds and professional development.
As part of this evolution, the NAA recently embarked on a strategic visioning process that aspires to cultivate a more inclusive global alumni community. Driven by changing demographics, the growth of an international alumni base and a desire for bolder and more innovative ways to engage all alumni, the NAA is charting a new path to strengthen relationships with Northwestern students and alumni who live around the world.
To help foster inclusiveness, especially among historically underrepresented groups, the NAA plans to broaden outreach to more alumni, continue to offer both virtual and in-person events (as long as it’s safe to do so) and tailor programs to the passions of Northwestern graduates.
“Our ambition is for the NAA to empower and engage all of our alumni through every stage of their lives,” says NAA President and University Trustee Larry Irving ’76. “We’ll do this by providing our global network with intellectual, social and professional opportunities that help them grow and connect with each other and Northwestern, wherever they live.”
The NAA has laid the groundwork for this effort through new leadership and initiatives. In 2018 the NAA board of directors was restructured to better reflect the demographics of current students. Today the board — the most diverse in the association’s history — provides strategic guidance to the NAA and includes industry leaders in branding and marketing, international business, and digital communications, among other fields. The board members’ core focus is enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure that all alumni feel welcome, represented and valued.
Last March the NAA launched the Alumni Community Census, an ongoing initiative to collect demographic data from alumni, particularly related to race, ethnicity, gender identity and preferred language. By gaining a more accurate and complete understanding of the alumni community, the NAA can develop and provide more meaningful programs for Northwestern graduates.
The NAA also wants to hear from all alumni, whether they have positive or negative feelings about the alumni association and the University. In October the NAA sent the inaugural Alumni Perceptions and Interests Survey to one-third of the alumni community to learn more about their experiences, viewpoints and interests. With plans to survey the entire alumni population over the next three years, the NAA seeks to provide more relevant virtual and in-person programming.
“We hope to continue to fill the need that alumni may have in their lives, whether they want to stay connected, give back their time to Northwestern or make an impact on the world,” Irving says.