NC State University

Staying in Touch:
What Alumni Services Do NC State Alumni Value?

Executive Summary

The NC State Alumni Survey of baccalaureate alumni who graduated from December 1990 through August 1993 included questions designed to identify those alumni services that NC State alumni consider to be of value. Results point to several overall conclusions:

Analyses of these questions by gender and by race yielded the following information:

Strong themes emerge from the way in which NC State Alumni Survey respondents expressed their preferences for alumni services and programs through their many open-ended comments on this survey. Clearly, alumni survey respondents as a whole are highly technologically literate, have continuing professional development needs, recognize the importance of professional and disciplinary networks, and expect their alma mater to serve as a center for fulfilling these needs. Specifically, alumni survey respondents are asking NC State to provide:

Given the potential for enrollment in distance education and graduate programs as well as the potential for further solidifying alumni support of NC State, recommendations include positioning the university as:

Staying In Touch:
What Alumni Services Do NC State Alumni Value?


The NC State Alumni Survey of baccalaureate alumni who graduated from December 1990 through August 1993 sought among other things to identify services that those alumni would value from NC State. This report, the first in a series of reports on data gleaned from this survey, will focus on how alumni responded to questions on the value of various sponsored events.

Data obtained from this survey represent the largest and most comprehensive effort in the history of NC State to gain feedback from alumni. The survey sample included 7,491 alumni. Three full mailings and a telephone follow-up resulted in a 51.2% response rate, yielding 3,179 usable questionnaires. Significant differences in proportion were found between respondents and the population of 1990-1993 baccalaureate alumni by gender, race, and college, but no differences were observed by year of graduation. Though differences were statistically significant (at p = .001), they were not sufficient to suggest that the obtained sample was appreciably different from the population of bachelor's graduates from 1990-1993. The following report is therefore based on the assumption that results obtained are broadly representative of the population of NC State bachelor's graduates for those years. Further methodological information on this survey is available from Office of Institutional Planning and Research.

Overall, Which Services Do Responding Alumni Value?

The service most frequently cited by respondents as being of value to them was career planning and placement assistance. Alumni seminars/short courses within the disciplines and hearing about NC State events also received broad support. The least frequently cited service of value was reunions. These results are displayed in Chart 1.

Alumni Seminars and ShortCourses Within the Discipline

Alumni seminars and short courses were considered especially valuable by respondents in the College of Textiles, where 69% of respondents indicated their interest in this service. A solid majority (59%) of respondents from the College of Forest Resources also found alumni seminars/short courses to be of value to them as alumni. Smaller majorities of respondents in the School of Design (54%), College of Engineering (53%) and College of Humanities and Social Sciences (54%) indicated support for such professional development efforts. These results are displayed in Chart 2.

Not only is there a noteworthy demand from alumni for the kind of professional development NC State can offer through alumni seminars and short courses, but a trend towards increasing demand for this type of service is evident the further alumni get from their graduation date. Thus, by year of graduation, the percentage of respondents who expressed support for alumni seminars and short courses was as follows:

These results point to the existence of a market demand from NC State alumni for continuing professional updates, especially as bachelor's degree recipients become integrated into the workforce and realize the need to maintain their professional skills.

Career Planning and Placement Assistance

Generally, respondents to this survey expressed support for this type of service over other alumni services. By college, some variation was found in the percentage of respondents who valued career planning and placement assistance. By far the highest support for this service (74%) was from Textiles graduates; a substantial majority of respondents in Management (58%) and Education and Psychology (58%) also indicated their interest in career assistance. The lowest support (49%) was from responding Forest Resources graduates. These percentages are displayed in Chart 3.

Receiving the Alumni Magazine

Overall, respondents expressed support for receiving the Alumni Magazine with less frequency than for several other services. Approximately 50% of respondents from three colleges (Humanities and Social Sciences, Textiles, and Management) expressed support for this service, but the percentage of respondents from other colleges who apparently value the publication was generally lower. These levels of support are displayed in Chart 4.

Hearing About NC State Events

Overall, about half of the Alumni Survey respondents indicated they would value hearing about NC State events in their area. No dramatic differences by college were found, although Textiles (60%) and Forest Resources (56%) received more approval for this type of service than did the other colleges. Results are set forth in Chart 5.


Generally speaking, reunions were by far the least valued service from NC State as far as respondents to the Alumni Survey were concerned. Only 23% of respondents indicated support for this type of service. Substantial variation was evident by college, with Forest Resources (30%), Textiles (27%), and Agriculture and Life Sciences (27%) achieving the highest approval rating from respondents for this type of service. These results are displayed in Chart 6.

A not unexpected finding with regard to reunions was that the percentage of respondents valuing reunions appears to decline markedly as the number of years since graduation increases. Thus, while nearly 27% of respondents who graduated in 1993 indicated support for reunions, only 19% of December 1990 graduates expressed approval for such a service. This trend is evident in Chart 7. Possible conclusions to be drawn are that the best time to prepare students for alumni activities is while they are still undergraduates, and that specific young alumni activities should be given greater attention. An alternative explanation is that support for reunions may be declining overall.

How Can NC State Stay in Touch With Female Alumni?

To examine the issue of improving NC State's ability to reach out to female alumni, survey responses were analyzed by gender. Results point out very clearly that female baccalaureate graduates who responded to the alumni survey have definite preferences in terms of what they would value from NC State, as follows:

Thus, as related to alumni outreach, it appears that female alumni survey respondents have a definite interest in further professional development and career assistance, and that this may be a valuable approach to increasing NC State's level of female alumni participation.

How Can NC State Stay in Touch With Minority Alumni?

To delve into the issue of improving NC State's ability to reach out to minority alumni, responses to questions on NC State alumni services NC State were analyzed by ethnicity. While sample sizes were fairly small for Native American, Asian, and Hispanic alumni, several differences were identified between what responding African-American bachelor's recipients value and those services responding white bachelor's recipients apparently value, as follows:

Results are similar to the findings with regard to female alumni: it appears that African-American respondents place a higher value on alumni seminars/short courses, career planning and placement assistance, and reunions than do white respondents. Targeted approaches to further professional and career development may thus be an avenue worth investigating in the effort to improve NC State's outreach to African-American alumni. Additionally, since African-American respondents indicated such a much higher level of support for reunions than did white respondents, targeted minority reunions may be another viable route to increasing alumni involvement at NC State.

What Other Services Would Alumni Value From NC State?

In survey research, often some of the most useful information emerges from open-ended questions. In the NC State Alumni Survey, graduates were asked to specify what other services they would value from the university. Responses fell broadly into one of seven thematic areas:

  1. Lifelong learning and continued professional development;
  2. Networking and contacting other alumni;
  3. Communication, image building, and promotion;
  4. Information specific to college or department;
  5. Employment;
  6. Sports and athletic events; and
  7. Access to NC State facilities.

Although the numeric frequency of such comments is often taken as a rough guide to how widespread an opinion is, marketing research supports the notion that if comment is mentioned by even a small number of survey respondents it usually suggests that many other alumni feel the same way but do not bother to respond.

Lifelong Learning, Professional Development, and Graduate Programs

A notable demand for continuing professional education, lifelong learning, and graduate programs was evident from alumni responses. A total of 33 comments on these topics were received. Several calls for technology-based instruction were received, such as:

Other comments related to the availability of evening courses and evening degree programs. Representative comments included:

The majority of comments received in this area related to continuing professional education. A sample of the many comments received includes:

Thus, it appears from these comments that a significant market opportunity exists for continuing professional education and lifelong learning courses from our alumni, if such courses are offered at times when working professionals can attend.

Networking and Contacting Other Alumni

A very strong demand for alumni networking opportunities was evident from alumni responses. 41 comments related to this area were received. The theme that respondents wanted to be connected with other alumni was prevalent throughout the comments. Professional or disciplinary networking was also a notable feature of comments received. Some examples include:

From these comments, the theme of NC State as a desired central resource and contact point for professional networking opportunities emerged very strongly. Again, a clear opportunity exists for NC State to improve connections with alumni in this area.

Communication, Image Building, and Promotion

Twenty-two respondents noted that improved information dissemination about NC State was a key issue for them. Two-way communication with the university was a prevalent theme, such as:

Several respondents were very specific about things NC State could do to build its image and to better disseminate knowledge of campus events and programs:

Information Specific to College or Department

Related to the theme of improved two-way communication, 10 respondents commented on their preference for hearing about developments within their college or department. Typical comments in this vein included:

Given the preference expressed in these and other comments for electronic communication, electronic newsletters at the college and department level may offer a viable tool for maintaining contact with alumni and disseminating information on college or departmental activities in a timely and cost-effective manner.


Employment after graduation was the theme mentioned in comments by 17 respondents. Two respondents commented very favorably on the College of Textiles lifetime placement service, and several other respondents had interesting suggestions for helping graduates find jobs:

Sports and Athletic Events

Perennially a topic of interest to alumni, sports and athletic events also found a place in the NC State Alumni Survey. 35 comments were received, 7 of which dealt were concerned with alumni access to/deals on tickets for athletic events. Apart from these comments, there seemed to be a genuine desire among respondents for more information on sports and athletic events at NC State. 11 comments were received in this vein. 4 more respondents asked for more information on the Wolfpack Club, and two respondents even suggested naming the new coliseum after Jim Valvano. Respondents also had other suggestions:

Access to NC State Facilities

Twenty comments were received that related to a desire on the part of alumni to have some kind of continued access to NC State facilities. Most frequently mentioned were the libraries, computing services, and the gym. Typical comments included:

Summary and Conclusions

Strong themes emerge from the way in which NC State Alumni Survey respondents expressed their preferences for alumni services and programs. Additionally, a profile of respondents emerges. Clearly, Alumni Survey respondents as a whole are highly technologically literate, have continuing professional development needs, recognize the importance of professional and disciplinary networks, and expect their alma mater to serve as a center for fulfilling these needs. Specifically, Alumni Survey respondents are asking NC State to provide:

The potential gain for NC State in addressing these needs specified by Alumni Survey respondents is great. A new paradigm of thinking about the relationship NC State has with its alumni is called for, one of the university as being an ongoing disciplinary information center for graduates; one of the university as the preferred provider of information, contacts, and professional development; and one of the university as an institution deeply committed to the continuing professional development and success of its graduates. Far from experiencing a "brain drain" as graduates move to other locations, contact with those graduates could be maintained through appropriate usage of the university's advanced information technology capabilities. The potential for gain in enrollment in graduate programs is especially important and should not be overlooked. Moreover, the potential for enhanced alumni donations to a university that is perceived by its graduates as being a national leader in keeping them on the cutting edge of technology and giving them tools to further their professional careers should be considered.

Overall, the results of the NC State Alumni Survey reinforce the notion that NC State stands before a tremendous leadership opportunity in reaching out to alumni into the next century.

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