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January 25, 2001 Advancement puts new focus on grads



The staff of Advancement/Alumni:

Seated, from left, Kaylene Lockwood (Records Management Assistant), Linda Susnick (Alumni Officer, Association/Chapters), Stephanie Brown (Secretary, Alumni), Lamis Subai (Alumni Officer, Students), Michael Daley (Records Management Assistant), Tamara Gulezko (Executive Assistant to Zsolnay), Pina DiMaio (AIS Support Analyst), Michelina Merulla (Assistant, Gift Processing), Marie Desrochers (Accounting Analyst), Dorothy Massimo (Coordinator, Faculty/Staff Giving), Laura Stanbra (Director, Alumni Relations). Standing are Averil Barnes (Supervisor, Gift Processing), David Brown (Director, Gift Planning), Cynthia Hedrich (Coordinator, Special Events), Janine Lavallée (Secretary, Advancement Communications), Dolly Shinhat-Ross (Coordinator, Donor Relations), Paul Chesser (Coordinator, Telefundraising), Claire Champeau (Coordinator, Marketing/Sponsorship), Evey Capitanio (Telefundraising Assistant), Asha Thykootathil (Assistant, Gift Processing), Tamás Zsolnay (Executive Director), Graham Maisonneuve (Director, Advancement), Ellen Gee (AIS Manager), Belinda Pyle (Director, Corporate/Foundation Giving) and Howard Bokser (Magazine Editor). Missing are Jocelyne Côté, Farah-Martine Dai, Gwen Girard, Tai Luong, Nicole Ngoya and Alison Parsons.

Photo by Christian Fleury.

University Advancement and Alumni Relations staff

by Barbara Black

Lots of things about University Advancement and Alumni Relations are new.

There’s the name, which brings fundraising and alumni together in one department. There’s the premises, on the spacious fifth floor of the Faubourg Tower on Guy St. There’s the people — lots of fresh young faces — and there’s the approach to the job, which is being attacked with fresh resolve since the recommendations of a task force were put into practice last year.

Executive Director Tamás Zsolnay has had a busy time of it. Not only did the office pack up and move during Homecoming season, but more than half the staff changed as a result of the capital campaign windup and the new administrative configuration. Now things have settled down to a busy hum.

In a conversation last week, Zsolnay said that a key to the new approach to alumni is decentralization. Small, “affinity-oriented” alumni chapters are springing up all over campus, and Zsolnay heartily approves. He gave an example of how and why by citing the 35th anniversary reunion of Communication Studies grads held at last fall’s Homecoming.

The department started organizing the event, a mammoth undertaking for an academic unit, and ran into staffing problems, so Advancement/Alumni offered to help. Grads turned out to be so keen to see their old friends and professors that, in Zsolnay’s words, “the turnout at this so-called ‘little’ alumni event was bigger than at some alumni events we’ve held for the whole university.”

The payoff from his point of view is a much better fix on a large group of grads that could pay off in loyalty to Concordia and, conceivably, generosity. Advancement is actively encouraging the formation of department-based or school-based alumni groups, as well as new Concordia alumni chapters in other cities around the world.

The four Faculties of Concordia have all created fundraising positions in their deans’ offices, and these staff work in close cooperation with Advancement/Alumni. Monthly meetings bring them all together, along with Clarence Epstein, fundraiser for the art gallery, and valuable resource people such as Erica Besso, Director of Research Services, and Marie-Andrée Robitaille-Brodie, Director of Government Relations and External Affairs.

The traditional alumni associations are changing, too. There are three at Concordia, one each for pre-1974 Loyola College and Sir George Williams University, and one, only 18 years old but already the largest, for Concordia University itself. Naturally, it is the only one that is growing.
The new president of the Concordia University Alumni Association, well-known brewer and local philanthropist Peter McAuslan, is showing the kind of dynamism Zsolnay thinks will take the organization to a new level of activity and prestige.

As a result, a memorandum of understanding is being worked out that will better define the working relationship between the CUAA and the university.

Zsolnay even foresees a “career path” for active alumni, and wants to attract people in their late 30s and 40s. “These are people who have got their careers sorted out and are beginning to look around and smell the roses, make a contribution and get re-involved in the institution,” he said.

Laura Stanbra, as Director of Alumni Relations, has one of the biggest jobs in the new department, since “alumni” now includes not only annual celebrations like Homecoming but fundraising approaches to graduates of all levels of giving potential, and even cultivation of future alumni, i.e. students.

The small contingent of CAST, the Concordia Alumni Student Team, will evolve from a purely volunteer group to a by-invitation-only organization whose members may be asked to represent the university in soliciting gifts.

Time-honoured annual events are being thoroughly re-examined. Shuffle, the walkathon between campuses, is always great fun, especially well attended by staff, and Zsolnay said it will stay pretty much the same, though renewed efforts will be made to attract alumni and students. However, Homecoming, which has never reached attendance expectations, is still under scrutiny.

Just handling the mountain of administrative data on active and potential donors has become a serious challenge, Zsolnay said. A major overhaul of the department’s computer system is underway, and it involves nothing less than a switch from Macs to PCs. The reason: a new Banner information system that will permit better integration with Financial Services.

There are important lacunae in the information the department has on students that must be addressed, Zsolnay said. For example, they only know the degrees, but not the programs, of the thousands of students who graduated before 1994. This is especially inconvenient when it comes to tracking graduates of the many disciplines of Arts and Science, and as Banner is implemented, the department will work with the Registrar to capture missing data.

The main business of Advancement/Alumni is keeping and increasing donors to the university to add quality to the basic education provided through government grants, and this will go on in an atmosphere of renewed determination.

Gifts may take many forms, from big corporate and foundation endowments to cheques and bequests from ordinary individuals. The destination of those precious resources is almost always education — scholarships and bursaries, academic chairs, lab facilities — and when it’s not, it’s for extras like athletic and social amenities that give richness to university life, and make it worth remembering.