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Alumni relations in the Facebook era

Why on earth would you give priority to people on Facebook? Ridiculous! — UWAA member quote

A few years ago, if the University of Washington wanted to connect with alumni it had to spend a small fortune in direct mail marketing and print publishing costs. Email changed all that, and social media is changing the game again. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are giving the UW and all of higher education an immediate and engaging channel to connect with graduates, friends, families and more.

At the UW Alumni Association, we think the 50-plus percent of UWAA members who use Facebook should become our “friends” because there is so much more that can be done through Facebook that email just can’t touch.

For starters, Facebook puts members in charge of their own subscriptions. It allows for more frequent and interactive communication. And it gives alumni the chance to connect with the University and fellow alumni on a deeper, more personal level. Alumni engagement is an inherently social experience, and Facebook is perhaps the most appropriate mass communication tool precisely because it is so social. Plus, it does all of this (and more) for free.

Not all alumni believe this is the best approach. But the UWAA is embracing today’s communications channels and reaching graduates wherever they may be, Facebook or not. Recently, we gave our 6,000-plus Facebook friends a “heads up” that tickets to a members-only showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides would be going on sale soon. We didn’t give Facebook users priority access to these tickets. We merely gave them a “heads up” that tickets were going to go on sale (which we also did for members in the latest issue of the Member E-news). So really, the people who got priority access to these tickets were the members who we have email addresses for. But that caused a stir, as the quote at the top of this post indicates clearly.

Do we have your email address? If not, be sure and update your contact info today.

So, are we backing away from email and replacing it with Facebook? Absolutely not. But we are aware that many of our younger members are doing exactly that. As hard as it is to imagine, “I don’t check my email—I just use Facebook,” is a growing sentiment among new graduates and students. For this reason alone we have to be on Facebook. But the use of any single communication tool should not be a requirement to have a great membership experience, and we can’t force someone to use email any more than we can force them to use Facebook. We need to communicate with alumni on their terms, regardless of whether they prefer email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, web browsing or good ol’ fashioned print media.

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Two UW alums elected to National Academy of Engineering

UW alum Frank Robinson elected to engineering academyTwo UW alums, Frank Robinson and Hank Levy, have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the most prestigious honors an engineer can receive.

Robinson, a 1957 UW alum and lifetime member of the UW Alumni Association, is retired president and chairman of Robinson Helicopter Co. He was elected for the “conception, design, and manufacture of low-noise, low life-cycle cost, and high-reliability helicopters.” A former engineer for Bell and Hughes and a few other multimillion-dollar helicopter makers, Robinson wanted to create a reliable “personal” helicopter that was affordable for flight schools, small business and thrill seekers. In 1973, he founded Robinson Helicopter in his living room and today outsells all North American manufacturers put together. Robinson was named one of the 26 most fascinating entrepreneurs by Inc. magazine in 2005.

Levy, a 1987 UW alum, teaches at UW and is the Wissner-Slivka Endowed Chair in Computer Science and Engineering.  He was elected for “contributions to design, implementation, and evaluation of operating systems, distributed systems, and processor architectures.” Levy is the author of two books and over 100 papers on computer systems design, and in 2006 co-founded of Skytap, a Seattle cloud-computing company. He also co-founded Performant, a Java performance company acquired by Mercury in 2003.

Here are this week’s Dawg Treats:

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Alumni groups in Egypt are back home safely

Tahir Square, Cairo - Photo by University of Washington

Tahir Square in Cairo, taken from Susan's hotel room. Look closely and you can see a group of protesters.

Dear Alumni,

When protests broke out in Cairo last week, UW Alumni Tours had two groups in Egypt. It’s been an exciting week, and I thought you might like to hear that Susan Cathcart, our assistant director of UW Alumni Tours, and the two alumni groups are now back in Seattle or wherever their homes are. I welcomed Susan’s group back at the airport on Friday, Feb. 4, with a purple UW banner. As you can imagine, they were all relieved to be home. Susan, especially, is exhausted but in good spirits!

Many of the travelers took the time to tell me how much they appreciated Susan’s hard work and advised me that due to her presence and how well the tour operator handled the situation in Egypt, they felt like they were well taken care of. A KIRO 7 news team just happened to be waiting for this same flight because they were planning to interview a  local peace activist returning from Egypt. The reporter couldn’t help notice my purple banner, and as soon as they heard about the groups they wanted to interview some of the travelers. They ended up interviewing two travelers as well as Susan.

On another note, I had sent an email to retired UW Professor Jere Bacharach who lives in Egypt six months out of the year. He accompanied a UW group to Egypt last year and also spoke to Susan’s group while they were in Cairo this past week. Once Internet access in Egypt was back up he was able to respond to my email, along with sending along a longer email he sent out to his family and friends about his experiences during the uprising.

You can read Professor Bacharach’s email here. There is also a blog being written by Political Science Professor Ellis Goldberg, who is in Cairo right now.

Check back next week when we hope to have photos and stories collected from our travelers.

Pauline Ranieri,
Director, UW Alumni Tours

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Alumni vote on top reasons to love the UW

Red Square at University of Washington
Last week, we asked UW Alumni Association staff and friends on Facebook to help us out with a membership project.

We’re on the way to 60,000 members—a new record for our organization—and we’re focused on telling the stories of why alumni, friends and fans love the UW.

Here’s what everyone decided upon, in no particular order. There were about 15 choices, and this is the top six including a write-in vote for “beautiful campus,” which I can’t believe we left off the list in the first place. Kudos to you guys for adding what is obviously a top reason to love the University of Washington. Your favorite reasons to love the UW are:

  • You went there.
  • Husky football, basketball and other sports.
  • UW drives 70,000 jobs in Washington and is the third largest employer in the state behind Boeing and Microsoft.
  • The UW is researching the critical issues of our time. Kidney dialysis, color TV and the Hepatitis B vaccine are all products of UW research.
  • UW educates nearly 100,000 people and UW Medicine treats more than 1.4 million patients each year.
  • Is there a more beautiful campus in the United States?

And here are a few more write-in votes:

I picked up valuable life skills beyond the classroom.

Where would you be without it?

The BEAUTIFUL campus!!! (And a super cute mascot.)

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Robert Stacey’s History Lecture Series is a smash

2011 History Lecture Series - UW Alumni AssociationThe UW Alumni Association’s 36th annual History Lecture Series reached its midway point Jan. 18, and we are hearing glowing compliments both for the program and the professor, Dr. Robert Stacey, divisional dean of Arts and Humanities here at UW.

Recently, UW alum Don Harrison wrote a synopsis of the second lecture. It’s always great to hear from a UWAA member, and Don has graciously granted us permission to repost some thoughts from his blog, Confused Ideas From the Northwest Corner:

The child is father to the man, so the saying goes. In the same way, the medieval world gave birth to the modern world of today. To understand why we act the way we do, both as individuals and as nations, we often need to look back to our childhoods.

The UW Alumni Association’s annual History Lecture Series is entitled “Medieval Origins of the Modern Western World.” As a one-time medieval history major myself, I showed up for the sold-out series expecting a rather superficial summation of the more exciting events of the period, a number of anecdotes that might appeal to the average guy who’s been out of school for a while. I was pleasantly surprised.

The series contains just four lectures. I regret having missed the first one, entitled “The Oddity of the Modern West,” while I was in California. This week’s lecture discussed the origins of one such “oddity”: “The Separation of Religion from Politics.” Dr. Stacey’s lecture was one of the best I’ve heard in the years I’ve attended these lectures at the UW. It was well delivered, highly organized, and crammed with information. … As an undergraduate, I took a very good course in political theory, a course that covered these same topics; Dr. Stacey’s single lecture pretty much summed up all the understanding (and more) that I took away from that undergrad class after the finals were over.

So props to the alumni association and to Dr. Stacey. I look forward eagerly to the two remaining lectures, “Limited Government” and “Love and Marriage.”

You can read Don’s full post on his blog.

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UW alum Michael Druxman revisits Hollywood in memoir

UW alum Michael Druxman revisits Hollywood in new bookWhen Seattle hosted the 1962 World’s Fair, Elvis Presley traveled to the Pacific Northwest to film “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” a musical about cropdusting buddies lost in gambling debt. Michael B. Druxman, a UW student at the time, wanted to be part of it.

Druxman went to the filming not for the experience as an extra, not for the $10 and a box lunch, but because he wanted to pick himself out on the big screen. Of course, the only way he could do that is if he got close enough to the film’s star. The director put him at the back of the scene, but young Druxman inched his way toward the front. As he sidled up next to Elvis and struck up a casual conversation, the assistant director stepped in and said, “You don’t talk to Elvis.” So to the back of the set he went. For the moment.

If you see the movie today, you can spot Druxman in the scene where a little boy (ironically, Kurt Russell) kicks Elvis in the shin. Druxman’s there in background, walking from one side to the other. Hi, Mom!

My Forty-Five Years in Hollywood and How I Escaped Alive is Druxman’s memoir. Beginning with his boyhood in Seattle, it follows him to Los Angeles where, without any show business contacts whatsoever, he creates a successful career for himself as a publicist, playwright, screenwriter, director and Hollywood historian. From Jimmy Durante and Elvis Presley to Jack Lemmon and Cary Grant, the book is filled with amusing stories of Druxman’s life in Hollywood.

Watch the book’s video trailer on YouTube.

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