Aiming to increase the number of alumni of color who are involved with the University of Wisconsin–Madison and its programs, the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA) has developed a strategic plan for diverse engagement, released in April.
The plan is based on feedback that WFAA received during a series of listening sessions held during the winter of 2017–18. Between November and January, WFAA leadership met with alumni of color in Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, and Madison to learn more about their concerns and connections to the university.
The listening sessions were the third stage in a process of outreach and data gathering. In 2015, WFAA conducted an affinity survey of alumni around the country and found that alumni of color had significantly different feelings toward their alma mater than did white alumni. WFAA then conducted focus groups in Dane County to dig deeper into these differences before embarking on the listening sessions in other areas. Alumni of color reported that, as students, they felt isolated on campus; and as graduates, they felt excluded from alumni communications and marketing.
The sessions helped to guide the way that WFAA thinks about engagement. “When developing the next steps,” said listening-session participant Prenicia Clifton ’04, “ensure that WFAA creates a plan that supports diversity and inclusion versus diversity and isolation.”
Approximately 7 percent of UW–Madison’s 442,000 living alumni self-identify as people of color. Some 36 of these grads attended the various sessions, which were coordinated by Gia Gallimore, WFAA’s director of diverse alumni engagement. The input from these events inspired WFAA to develop a set of goals for engaging more alumni of color between 2018 and 2020:
- strengthen the network of alumni of color
- enhance marketing and engagement programs
- cultivate student-to-alumni connections
“As an organization, we recognize that our efforts to engage diverse alumni have at times fallen short,” WFAA’s diversity work group reported. “To address these shortcomings, our leadership has made outreach and engagement to diverse alumni a top organizational priority.”
Download the full plan here.