The Alumni Association has come a long way since its original founding in 2011, thanks to the incredible and faithful support of the community. But it wouldn’t be where it is today if not for the hard work of a number of passionate alumni with a vision.
“Previously, alumni often felt that the University viewed them solely as potential financial donors,” says Aaron Fedora (’04), one of the original founders and former President of the Alumni Association.
2010 was a difficult time, as the then-called Alumni Relations Department was struggling to function in a way that considered the interests of both the University and alumni. Things became more complicated when Alumni Relations Director Dave Swan (‘95) was let go by the University, despite having broad support among the alumni community.
Following the unexpected departure of Swan, conversations began about how to reconcile the relationship between the University and its alumni. Could it be possible to establish a committed, active, and engaged alumni community? Could they work together to establish an interconnected network, where everyone thrived together?
A number of alumni stepped up to try and make this happen. Bonded by their common belief in the importance of Trinity Western’s mission—not only to Canada, but to those across the globe—they were called The New Era Task Force. They meet bi-weekly for four months with the goal of presenting a vision and plan to the University’s Board of Governors.
“The vision,” says Fedora, “was quite simply that our community would take ownership for how we supported each other, students, and the University. We believed it was up to us to strengthen the existing alumni networks, connecting them in support of Trinity Western University and its mission, and helping new alumni achieve success.”
The task force prepared a report, “A New Era for TWU Alumni: Creating a Dynamic Alumni Association,” which identified many problems facing alumni. Despite Trinity Western having high levels of undergraduate student satisfaction, very few alumni engaged with the University after graduation. Research indicated that only 3% of alumni gave financially to the University. Many alumni lacked trust in the leadership, and perceived the University cared little about their input on important issues.
The report was shared with the Board of Governors in 2011, with the formal recommendation that the Alumni Relations department be replaced by a new, independent alumni association. The Board unanimously adopted recommendations and the Alumni Association was officially formed in that year.
“It was an exciting time,” says Fedora. “After four months of hard work, the plan that we designed was adopted by the Board of Governors and would be implemented.”
Despite the early success and support of the Board, by mid-2012, the Alumni Association and the University began to realize that there were challenges with the envisioned model. Many alumni were disillusioned by the way things had been done in the past, and there was skepticism that things could really change. Similarly, the University struggled with adopting the proposed changes, which were very different than models at other universities.
“Unfortunately, we are all still humans with human frailties,” says Fedora, who adds that it was difficult for new staff at the University to relinquish their control and allow the Association to establish itself in accordance with the vision proposed.
Needless to say, it was a difficult transition, and resources remained limited as the Association struggled to establish itself. But thanks to the support of so many alumni volunteers and dedicated members, it began to find its way and become a distinct presence.
“Throughout our first six years, we persevered to see the realization of the New Era Document,” says Fedora. “It was not always easy, but we reminded each other that—despite the difficulties coming from differing approaches—both the University and the alumni community shared the same end goal.”
Dave MacDonald (‘98), current President of the Alumni Association board and founding member, says that alumni need to continue to work together.
“We always felt that the Alumni Association could be better than it was,” says MacDonald of those early days. “A lot of alumni staff members tried very hard over the years, but more alumni needed to come together to help. The Association is not going to grow simply because there’s a department. It’s going to grow because a whole lot of volunteers are willing to chip in time and effort. So many of us received scholarships, coaching, and life-changing investment during our time as students, and now we want to help the next generation succeed.”
Today, the alumni network is more vibrant than ever before because of the generous support of those who came together and paid for membership, contributed funds, and volunteered their time. These individuals are the founders of the Alumni Association, and each one played a crucial role in its growth and development.
As 2018 begins and the Alumni Association transitions to free membership, a special red flame will be placed next to the names of each one of the founders in the new alumni database (launching soon.) This founders flame is one small gesture of appreciation and a tribute to the contributions made by all Alumni Association members from 2011 until now.
“Why couldn’t the Alumni Association be an amazing, worldwide network, easy to access, for the good of everyone?” says MacDonald. “It’s hard to connect with your first job, change careers, or start a new cause. If we can each help alumni launch well and succeed, we’re all benefiting by being a stronger network.”
If you’d like to learn how to get involved, or to learn more about the change to free membership, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!