In my first Degrees message to alumni as President and Vice-Chancellor of your alma mater, I want to speak about how important alumni are to the University of Regina and, at the same time, how important the University should be to you.
Our alumni connect us to the wider world, both in our immediate community and as a platform to pursue partnerships worldwide. When a university’s relationship with alumni works properly, meaningful, effective partnerships are established. Connecting with people who believe in and are committed to the institution’s success creates a positive impact. As graduates, alumni want to see their university shine; in many ways, the university’s success is a positive reflection on them and the education they received. And, of course, alumni successes in different fields of endeavour reflect positively on a university and the education it provides.
With that in mind, I want to make the University of Regina the place where our alumni want to send their children. I want you to be justifiably proud of the University and inspired to contribute to this amazing institution, city, and province. In short, I want to ensure that all our approximately 80,000 alumni feel and project pride in this place and all that we accomplish together.
So how does this focus on alumni connect with my broader philosophy regarding universities?
I believe wholeheartedly that universities are critically important in connecting with and building capacity in the wider community. I’m convinced that helping build that capacity is a fundamental component of a university’s success in all its endeavours. Those connections enrich research, enhance teaching and learning, and help build partnerships in many other respects.
And you as our alumni are a key aspect of that. From my experience, reaching out and connecting with others enhances a university – bringing its dynamism and possibilities into a wider realm for the benefit of all. That philosophy underlies my approach to the University of Regina’s relationship with alumni. Alumni are critical to the University’s success – and given the work that has been taking place in this regard in recent years, we have tremendous possibilities ahead of us.
The University turns 50 in 2024, so we’re a relatively young institution. That has many advantages in terms of being a progressive and forward-looking university, but it can also be a bit of a disadvantage in the sense that we don’t have the most well-established, multi-generational and engaged base of alumni.
Of our approximately 80,000 alumni, only a small minority are truly and meaningfully involved with the University. This can be a consequence of being a commuter university, one that’s comprehensive in nature, because it can be harder to establish a sense of place for students and eventually alumni at such an institution. This isn’t unusual and it isn’t an insurmountable challenge. We do need to be more active with our alumni, and it can be done.
We need to expand and promote the existing networking possibilities that are important to alumni and can connect them to current students. We need to demonstrate the mutual benefits – and even the fun! – of alumni involvement in University life. We need to better connect our alumni with each other and with the institution as valued parts of the University of Regina family so that you see us as an important part of your social and professional lives.
Expanding this alumni involvement has multiple benefits. It builds recognition, reputation and community awareness of our academic, cultural and social mission. Positive messaging and alumni success stories will bring more students to the University of Regina. This in turn will generate new generations of alumni ambassadors.
In general, the leading universities are the ones that have very active alumni – and that’s no coincidence. For our part, we need to enhance the active relationship between alumni and our University. An important means of doing so is engaging meaningfully with students before they graduate.
There are so many great examples of areas where alumni can get involved and help lead. So my challenge to you – and to myself! – is for us to work together to build on the great foundation we already have. I have accepted the Alumni Association’s kind invitation to be an ex officio member of its Board. In the spirit of our University motto – As One Who Serves – I look forward to working closely with you and with the staff in our Alumni and Community Engagement area to enhance the University’s profile, keep our alumni engaged with the institution and each other, involve our students both before and after graduation, and help find additional ways to closely connect the University with the communities that surround and support us.
Thank you for all you continue to do for your fellow alumni, our current students and the University as a whole. It’s an honour to serve this great University with you.
Dr. Jeff Keshen
President and Vice-Chancellor