Monday, May 21, 2007

Sense of Place

This past weekend I attended the annual meeting of the Iowa State University Alumni Association ( . This meeting was held to install the incoming officers and board members of the association. As I Life Member of the association I have demonstrated not only my support of their mission but perhaps also the nostalgia I have for my college years. Having spent some time back on campus this weekend I can easily see why numerous college towns around the USA are booming retirement communities.

It is the sense of "place" that drives all successful alumni associations. While I listened to the meeting's proceedings I reflected on the "alumni" concept itself especially having recently worked in Europe for three years where the "college alumni loyalty" concept is essentially unknown -- at least in the United Kingdom and Belgium where I worked. The world of alumni fundraising for universities is essentially non-existent in Europe primarily because "education is free" is my theory. I saw this first hand when the British Parliament tried to implement "university top up fees" that would have required students to pay a much larger portion of the cost of their university education.

To me the parallel to this situation is your first automobile -- if you pay for the car yourself you treat it much better than if a relative gives you a car as a gift. So it goes with a college education -- if you have to take out loans, pursue scholarships, and work a part-time job (such as my factory experience) to pay for your education then you clearly value your time on campus more than the classmate who simply has his parents write checks for everything.

It was great to be back on campus which helped re-charge my interest in volunteer opportunities. I hope my readers join their alumni association today if they aren't members -- universities are key to our continued economic success and future students need your support.


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