The perfect synergy: Alumni, donors, students, employers — A case study in Silicon Valley

John Grant, Consultant, John Grant Consulting, Lisa Jung, Senior Associate Director, Alumni Relations and Harriet Chicoine, Programme Director, Faculty of Applied Science and I.A.T., Co-operative Education, Simon Fraser University

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Abstract: This is a case study about overcoming internal institutional silos to develop a new market for alumni engagement, donor cultivation, and student and alumni job opportunities. Simon Fraser University (SFU) was unknown in the Bay Area until three key areas of the university banded together to form the Bay Area Working Group — a cross-functional team to develop a comprehensive strategy for that region. The paper discusses specific strategies that were developed to address the following goals: (1) increasing the number of activities delivered in the region, while maximising strategic outcomes for broader institutional needs, (2) coordinating a single delegation to participate in one or two annual trips to the region, (3) increasing the number of organisations that hired co-op students by using alumni as door openers, (4) integrating current students into alumni-based activities in the region, (5) increasing university pride and loyalty held by alumni in the region, and (6) increasing recognition and acknowledgment of the SFU brand. Five years later, SFU is a leader in the region with record levels of alumni engagement, an increase in the number of financial gifts being realised, significant growth in the number of student co-op positions being posted, and the likes of Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple recruiting on an active basis on campus. A list of recommendations are provided to guide others who are keen to both enhance the outcomes realised in existing areas and expand activities into new markets.


Keywords: collaboration, regional engagement, job development, strategy, relationships, loyalty, pride


John Grant is the former Director of Alumni Relations at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the former Executive Director of the SFU Alumni Association. John completed his three academic credentials at SFU. His Master of Education dissertation involved exploring the key elements that contribute to successfully engaging recent alumni. He worked within the university from 2004, where he began as a Co-op (intern) student and advanced through roles in both the Co-operative Education/Work Integrated Learning programmes. He then worked with the Alumni Relations office from December 2009 until January 2020. He also served as a Director on the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VIII Board. He is now a full time father, a consultant and an instructor in Applied Communications with Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, Canada.


Lisa Jung is the Senior Associate Director for SFU’s Alumni Relations Office. She has built and developed the university’s regional engagement strategy and ambassador programme and has been the lead on signature alumni engagement events. In addition, she provides expert consultation to faculties and departments on appropriate alumni engagement strategies. Lisa has had a 20-year career with the university, including as a Client Services Coordinator in Event and Conference Services, a Manager of Academic Administrative Services, and over seven years in the alumni office.


Harriet Chicoine has worked for 20 years at SFU within Work Integrated Learning, with a focus on the Co-op Education Programme — paid student internship programmes. She is the Programme Director for SFU’s Faculty of Applied Science and I.A.T. Co-op Programme. She served as Vice President and President of the Association for Cooperative Education and Work-Integrated Learning BC/Yukon chapter and was the Chair for the Canadian Association of Cooperative Education’s Student of the Year Awards Committee. She is also a research reviewer with the World Association for Co-operative Education.

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