Developing international alumni relations is one of the objectives of the University of Turku's International Programme. Cultivating mutually beneficial relations with alumni near and far is important in a world that is diverse and increasingly interconneted.
Committed, active and well-functioning alumni networks are something that most universities are eager to nurture. Alumni are, in many ways, the embodiment of a university’s mission and values, and as such they are important brand ambassadors and potential advocates for their alma maters. Furthermore, alumni can provide valuable professional development and networking opportunities to current students while also acting as a source of information on how to develop university education and activities.
At the University of Turku, the term alumni refers to all former students, graduates and staff members of the University. The community is wide and increasingly global, encompassing international alumni living in Finland and abroad. Ameya Foujdar has been working in the University’s Partnership and Strategic Engagement unit as an International Alumni Coordinator since November 2021. As an international University of Turku alumnus, he is interested in engaging the University’s alumni community to develop a relationship that is beneficial to both the University and its alumni.
Engaging with Alumni Near and Far – Why Does It Matter?
Developing international alumni relations is one of the central objectives of the University’s current International Programme which supports the strategic goals outlined in the University’s Strategy 2030. A strong international alumni network is of course an efficient way to strengthen the University’s global recognition and impact. But more importantly, it makes sense to foster international alumni relations in a world that is increasingly interconnected and culturally fluid.
“We have alumni everywhere; the community is very diverse and multicultural. This is not just in terms of the background of the people but also the variety of global career paths, research areas and work in which our alumni are involved. That is definitely something that should be valued and the reason location should never be a barrier in alumni relations,” Ameya explains.
According to Ameya, it is important to actively engage with alumni near and far to make sure that they continue to identify as being part of the University community even after they have graduated and moved on. At the same time, the University of Turku wants to identify as the alma mater to its alumni and keep supporting them to achieve the best they can in their careers. Staying in regular contact with international alumni enables connections, networking and mentoring between the alumni and current students. It also makes it easier for the alumni and the University to exchange ideas and experiences.
International Alumni as Part of the University Community
At the University of Turku, international alumni activities are planned and coordinated carefully in line with the University’s Strategy and the International Programme. According to Ameya, one of the most important aspects highlighted in the International Programme is that international alumni activities should be developed as part of the overall alumni activities. In other words, international alumni should not be viewed as a separate entity but as part of the wider community. This is important as the University as a whole should be a strong community with shared values and commitment.
Being considered as part of the overall community can also help international alumni integrate into the Finnish society if they choose to stay in Finland. To support integration, Ameya strives to help faculties to organise more alumni activities and events that are multilingual, ensuring that both Finnish and English-speaking audiences can be reached. In his role as international alumni coordinator, Ameya also frequently collaborates with units such as Continuous Learning, Career Services, as well as partners at Talent Boost, SIMHE - Education and Guidance Services for Immigrants and the City of Turku to enhance the integration and employment opportunities for international alumni.
Reaching the Alumni
Planning events and activities for international alumni is one thing, but how to actually reach the alumni once they move on to life outside the University? According to Ameya, one of the key issues is to engage with people as early on as possible. In the case of students, this means that they are informed of alumni opportunities and ways to stay connected to the University right from the start of their studies.
As international graduates and staff continue their journey elsewhere, Ameya supports the faculties in keeping in touch with them, trying to make it as easy as possible to reach the alumni and to ensure that the alumni receive relevant news and information from the University. He also helps faculties in planning and organising multi-lingual alumni events and activities, maintains the international alumni register and curates the monthly newsletter for international alumni.
Engaging with alumni is, of course, a two-way process. “We want our relations with our alumni to be also based on what they need,” Ameya says. “This is why we conduct surveys to find out their interests. According to the most recent survey, our international alumni would like to know more about employment opportunities and the careers of other international talents. So, we are working with Career Services to focus on the employment issues and we are looking for ways to organise events with that topic in mind. We have also started to collect and publish alumni stories in which alumni share information and thoughts on their career paths.
What Is Next in International Alumni Relations?
As for the future, Ameya has some interesting developments in the pipeline. A new online alumni platform will be launched later in 2022. The platform will enable alumni to have their own virtual space through which they can connect with other each other as well as with the University. Furthermore, to connect alumni and current students, a new multilingual mentoring programme for international alumni and students kicks off later this year. “The programme is a very concrete way for alumni to provide career advice to current students who can benefit from hearing the views and thoughts of someone with more experience,” Ameya explains.
In addition to mentoring, a new alumni ambassador programme is set to be launched in the winter. The aim of the programme is to organise monthly sessions on topics that are relevant especially to the international student community. During the sessions, alumni ambassadors will be able to discuss these issues and share their thoughts. International alumni will also be featured at the University of Turku Virtual Open Week as well as at the Study and Stay in Turku career event later this year.
Are you an international University of Turku alum? Whether you are a recent graduate or graduated from the University years ago, we would love to keep in touch with you. Register your contact information and details now to receive regular information about what is going on at your alma mater and to take advantage of the benefits associated with being an alumn! You can find more information on international alumni relations on our website or by contacting Ameya directly.