NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
ERIC Number: EJ1016807
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0748-478X
Repairing Cracked Relationships
O'Dwyer, Kay; Derryberry, Quentin, III
CURRENTS, v39 n5 p24-26 May-Jun 2013
Encountering disillusioned alumni throws a wrench into the already complicated science of alumni engagement. From Kay O'Dwyer and Quentin Derryberry, III's dealings with disgruntled graduates of their institutions, Emmanuel College in Massachusetts and Boston University (BU) respectively, they have learned an important lesson: Alumni do not get angry because they are ambivalent--they are angry because they care. If an institution or its alumni office offers a tepid response to a complaint, or if the answer to a graduate's pointed question is no answer at all, that tells alumni that the college, university, or school is not listening. Institutional indifference breeds alumni negativity, and in the era of social media, that sentiment can go viral in a heartbeat. At Emmanuel and BU, O'Dwyer and Derryberry have found that the best tools to build bridges with unhappy alumni are those employed by companies that address consumer complaints: Tackle the issue head-on. Listen and show respect for the graduate's point of view. Resist the urge to counter his or her argument, and do not take the criticism personally. The problem is with the institution, not you. And when necessary, apologize for the strain the situation has caused, even when you and your office are not at fault. A little extra effort--a commitment to transparency, an extended hand (and ear), and a heartfelt conversation--can overcome alumni fears or years of institutional neglect. That kind of authenticity regarding an institution's future direction and painful past clearly resonates with alumni.
Council for Advancement and Support of Education. 1307 New York Avenue NW Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-328-2273; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A