Opening its doors: A more inclusive alumni association

By ESRA HASHEM, Student Writer

Three-and-a-half years ago, alumni who wanted to express their commitment to Fresno State paid $60 a year to the alumni association, or $600 for a life membership.

Alumni paid their dues to be a part of this exclusive group, and received benefits from the alumni association as a result. Paying dues is a common model adopted by alumni associations across the nation, drawing in committed alumni back to the university.

But in March 2012, after decades of maintaining its dues-based membership model, the Fresno State Alumni Association opened its doors to everyone.

“The direction of the alumni association has become more clear and focused,” said Jacquelyn Glasener, executive director of the alumni association. “Now, everyone is a part of the alumni association: Current and former students, parents, faculty and staff, graduates, donors, volunteers and friends. We are focusing on engaging everybody. We are focusing on recognizing our alumni and we’ve really become focused on scholarships.”

Those are the three goals of the Fresno State Alumni Association, Glasener said: Engagement, scholarship and recognition.

The goals were adopted after the conversion to a non-dues based model. As opposed to focusing on who is a member of the alumni association, Glasener said now the focus is on everyone.

“The environment has changed,” she said. “It does feel more inclusive. The direction of the alumni association has been one of the positives out of this.”

Formerly, members of the alumni association received benefits for paying their dues. Benefits included discounts with sponsor companies, exclusive communications from the alumni association and membership to an alumni chapter. Life members — or members who paid dues for life — received extended benefits for their financial commitment.

Today, Life Members are still recognized for this financial commitment. Along with donors providing significant giving to the Fresno State Alumni Association, Life Members receive exclusive benefits like discounts with campus-based organizations.

“I don’t think that there was a negative effect to this shift,” Glasener said. “We still recognize and honor those who are Life Members at events or in publications. That piece of it is still strong. We haven’t lost sight of the fact that there were people who helped us get to where we are. But I think it’s made more people feel included, and we aren’t just focusing on a list of benefits, it’s more focused on how to get people connected, how to recognize our alumni.”

Glasener said shifting to a non-dues based model has also allowed the Fresno State Alumni Association to focus more on student and campus engagement. She said students who have taken as little as three units are classified as alumni by the alumni association, though they have not yet graduated.

“There was just a disconnect with students before,” she said. “It was sort of like, ‘What is the alumni association and why are you in this house and what is this facility?’ The students didn’t feel like they could come here or that they were included. They didn’t understand what an alumni association was.”

Now, the relationship between the alumni association and the campus is stronger than ever.

“It’s caused us to become a more involved, engaged partner on campus with Student Affairs and Academics,” Glasener said. “It shows everyone that we want to be involved, we want to be engaged, we want to be recognized. And we will be here for everybody.”