Graduations have symbolized an event of change and progression: A farewell to present, a welcome to a bright future. In the midst of the accolades, bravos, and congrats, beyond caps and gowns, speeches and spirits, there appears a missed opportunity—an opportunity that began when the individual and institution first met and continued until commencement day.
The missed opportunity comes in establishing long-term relationships between school and student, faculty and family, institutions and communities. The typical scenario is that the worthy graduate will reach higher heights and someday return and give back, as an alum, in the form of financial support. Ironically those who contact alumni, may have never met them while attending. Likewise, the graduate is seen in isolation and not as a social network connected to friends, families, communities, even cultures.
More recent discussions about engagement between educational institutions and learning communities have often ignored the event of graduation as an invitation to reaffirm a lifelong relationship. The best advocates for keeping campuses and communities together are indeed graduates, who represent dual constituencies, or at the least, potential community voices who can speak well on the behalf of their alma mater.
Still an opportunity forgone, if not nurtured and communicated from the start. Perhaps three significant changes that could happen at graduations: 1) partnering graduates to interested individuals for mutual benefit; 2) providing an ongoing list of projects that graduates could volunteer, consult, or offer expertise inside and outside the institution; and 3) solicit ideas for how graduates’ families, friends, other graduates and students can take part in an institutional and communal agenda.
This is not to say that these actions have not taken place in some small measure, but that graduations are the “best campaign platform” for sustained engagement and relationship-building for future graduates and commencements to come.