This site contains resources for UVM departments and programs to effectively engage their alumni to assist in program assessment, planning and development. This includes data collection through survey and focus group studies, data made available through an OIRA/UVM Foundation partnership, and other forms of interaction with alumni to inform programmatic structure.
Programs that use alumni studies to connect with alumni and build sustained alumni engagement plans stand to benefit the most. We strongly encourage you to consider how your program will respond to information you might gather about alumni activities, and what impact your work could have on the experience of current students, as well as alumni themselves.
The Office of Institutional Research and other university units already collect data on graduating students and alumni which may prove useful to you as you consider program evaluation or contextualize program-level data. Consider the following:
- UVM foundation and OIR have recently collaborated on an alumni survey that includes a series of questions about career preparedness using the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) key attributes list. Contact OIR for how to access data for alumni of your program.
- OIR collects information about Degrees awarded, broken down to the program level, over the last two decades.
- OIR collects Career Outcomes data annually, with a detailed report.
- The site UVM Connect allows you to do advanced searches of alumni by program and industry. Since profiles may be drawn from LinkedIn, a wealth of employment information is often available. This can be perfect for setting up alumni engagement and for gathering alumni stories.
Alumni Focus Groups
Often the most effective way to get detailed information about your alumni, their student experiences, and their post-graduation trajectories is to conduct a focus group. A focus group is an important qualitative research tool in which a small group of contituents engages in a structured conversation around pre-selected topics or questions in a conducive environment. Opinions and new ideas tend to emerge freely in this setting. Both OIR and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at UVM have experience in helping programs to set up peer-led focus group conversations on a variety of topics. Consider focus groups and other alternatives to surveys as discussed here.
Surveys are another way to collect data about alumni, but keep in mind that alumni are surveyed fairly often by different parts of the institution, and it is important to avoid so-called "survey fatigue". In fact, all alumni are already surveyed through an OIR/UVM Foundation partnership, and the data collected from that survey is available to you for your program's alumni upon request. Please contact OIR to learn more about accessing alumni data.
If you do decide to design your own survey instrument, you will want to consider several factors:
- Survey design/length - we recommend a short, targeted survey that focuses on the information specific to your program that you really need.
- Survey frequency - alumni surveys are most effective when they are distributed every 2-3 years, or only to a select group annually (e.g. those 1-2 years from graduation one year, those 3+ years out the next)
- Outreach and data use - be sure that the data that you collect is going to good use. If possible, share it with faculty, students, and your college. Follow up with alumni who complete the survey one-on-one, and use it as an opportunity to build new relationships.
For more resources on best practices, sample surveys, and other info, click here.
Structured interaction with alumni can be one of the best ways to collect indirect assessment data for program evaluation. Options include hosting an annual alumni lecture or alumni panel for current students, fostering a near-peer mentoring program with recent alumni and current advanced students, and/or inviting recent and local alumni to program events. Data collected from these interactions can provide information about the long-term impact of your program and your offerings on alumni career preparedness and success. Regular alumni engagement can also help current students build valuable connections, and can give alumni the opportunity to give back to the institution. Consider putting together an alumni engagement plan for your program that moves beyond surveys into meaningful, two-way interactions.