Graduate School Focus Groups

The Graduate School and the Office of Alumni Relations recently collaborated on a series of roundtable discussions specifically for alumni of graduate degree programs. The roundtables served as focus groups for alumni to share their feedback on their student and alumni experiences and alumni programming and communications. The feedback shared provided important and valuable insight for the University.

Each individual shared their personal perspectives and experiences. From this wealth of feedback, a great number of ideas and opportunities emerged. In particular, three common themes emerged from the discussions.

1. The participants identified strongly with the faculty, departments, and schools aligned with their academic concentration and degree. In many cases, alumni mentioned specific professors by name that had a direct impact on their academic experience and subsequent professional success. Roundtable participants indicated that their decision to attend graduate school was, for the most part, a decision rooted in advancing their career. As a result, they identified strongly with the subject matter of their coursework.

2. The alumni were most interested in events and activities that are related to their specific career field and/or lifelong learning opportunities. As a result of their strong affinity for their academic departments and schools, the alumni indicated their relationship with the university is best nurtured through networking opportunities and lifelong learning such as professional development, faculty lectures, and insight from academic and industry experts.

3. The graduate degree alumni had limited time to develop connections with classmates or the university community but still place a high value on a strong alumni network. Nearly all alumni participants indicated they had attended classes part-time while working or raising a family. As a result, they did not build strong relationships with fellow classmates or get involved on campus. One alumnus summarized “all of us were coming from work going to class …tired from the day’s stress.” They had limited or often no time to interact with fellow classmates or spend time on campus. While they felt this impacted their student experience they did express a connection to the University and a strong desire to be a part of a strong alumni network.

Upon discussion of these themes, the Office of Alumni Relations has developed an action plan and recommendations in relation to the subjects.

The participants identified strongly with the faculty, departments, and schools aligned with their academic concentration and degree.

Actions:
• Continue to identify faculty and departments that have high levels of affinity among students; leverage those relationships to reconnect and deepen existing alumni connections.

• Encourage schools and departments to provide news and knowledge that would be of value and interest to alumni within their field.

• Further develop opportunities to communicate to alumni in a segmented and personalized manner based on their school and specific area of study.

The alumni were most interested in events and activities that are related to their specific career field and/or lifelong learning opportunities.

Actions:
• Target graduate degree alumni with events such as lectures, professional development opportunities, networking, and events of professional and/or intellectual value.

• Identify professional associations and industry organizations that could partner to provide alumni programming in their specific fields.

• Ensure that networking opportunities are built into existing events and new events are created with industry networking in mind.

The graduate degree alumni had limited time to develop connections with classmates or the university community but still place a high value on a strong alumni network.

Actions:
• Academic programs should clearly express the importance of networking with fellow students and consider building opportunities for student networking.

• Networking will be an integral component of graduate school alumni programming.

• Continue development of MONTCLAIRconnect, the use of Linkedin, and other platforms as a critical in bringing all alumni into a strong network/community.

As alumni, your voice is important! Focus groups in various areas and programs are held throughout the year. To ensure you receive your invite to let your voice be heard, please make sure your information is up to date by logging on to MONTCLAIRconnect, the online community exclusive to Montclair State University alumni. For more information on past or upcoming focus groups, feel free to contact John Morytko, Office of Alumni Relations, at 973-655-3323 or morytkoj@mail.montclair.edu.