On October 23-24, seventy-five representatives from nearly forty institutions and organizations around the country gathered on the Princeton campus for two days of knowledge sharing and networking around the theme of alumni civic engagement. Princeton AlumniCorps organized and hosted the Engage at Every Age conference, with support from the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, in order to provide a forum for leaders in the field to learn from each other and build relationships. Over two days of panels, breakout discussions, and plenary sessions, attendees explored models of alumni civic engagement, from fellowships for recent graduates to programs supporting mid-life career changes to “encore programs” for alumni over 60.
The agenda opened with a plenary discussion of successful program models at University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton AlumniCorps, and Stanford University. Speaking about the Stanford Beyond the Farm program, Katherine Toy, Senior Manager of Alumni Leadership at Stanford, challenged the audience to ask “How do we leverage the power of our alumni who are doing good things in the world, and use that network? How can individual alumni use one another to further the public interest? How can we create a larger pipeline of alumni leaders?”
Two panels surveyed the broader civic engagement landscape for alumni and students, with representatives from independent organizations including Public Allies, Service Year, The Bonner Foundation, AmeriCorps Alums, Encore.Org, Citizen Alum, and College Advising Corps. Mary Bruce, Co-Executive Director of AmeriCorps Alums, underscored the opportunity for organizations that successfully mobilize their alumni to invest in the social sector: “We have an incredibly smart, powerful, and diverse group of alumni who can advance employment equity in the social sector, which in turn will make communities safer, stronger, and healthier.”
“Deeper Dive” discussions provided conference goers a chance to explore narrower topics, such as post-graduate fellowships and mid-career transitions, in a smaller group setting. Conversation continued on Friday night with a reception at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. On Saturday, three rounds of “Short Takes” highlighted the innovative work being done by programs like Duke Alums Engage and the Career and Life Vision program at Princeton Career Services. The conference concluded with an open discussion about the agenda of future gatherings and the strong interest in continuing to share resources and ideas as more institutions expand their alumni civic engagement efforts.