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Program connects alumni with prospective students

March 27, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Instead of just receiving a letter notifying them of their accomplishment, some 9,000 of this year's admitted students will also receive a postcard and personal congratulations from a Western Michigan University graduate.

More than 550 University alumni are participating in the 2-year-old postcard campaign under the WMU Alumni Association's Alumni Admissions Ambassadors program.

To connect graduates with high school seniors who have been accepted to the University, the initiative uses colorful 5-by-7-inch postcards that feature collages of students, faculty and buildings. Along with the cards, which are provided by the Alumni Association, program participants are given names and addresses of admitted students, suggested messages and even stamps.

The ambassadors send postcards to about 10 admitted students each month from January through March.

The mailing initiative is part of a program established more than a decade ago that also recruits alumni volunteers to represent the University at four to five national college fairs that are selected by the Office of Admissions.

Hardy Figueroa, WMU associate director of constituent and regional outreach in the Office of Alumni Relations, says alumni response to the expanded effort has been extremely positive.

"Our volunteers...want to help the University in other ways, through time, energy and contributing to the University's priorities," Figueroa says. "The mailing initiative cannot have a negative impact. At the very least, students are receiving a personal message from a proud alum telling them congratulations. At the very best, it can make them feel welcome and help enroll students."

Future students who have received the cards in the past have appreciated WMU's personal approach and contact, reports Paula Nahernak, a senior from Capac, Mich., who has worked on the program for the past two years as a student intern.

"When freshmen are looking at going to college, they're looking for something to help them fit in," says Nahernak, who will graduate in August with a bachelor's degree in business. "When they pick a college, they want to get excited and be assured they made a good decision."

Last year, alumni volunteers were matched with accepted students based on hometowns and geographical regions. This year, the focus is on creating pairings based on fields of study. Students who are undecided about a major--an estimated 30 percent of applicants--are divided among the alumni volunteers.

Ambassadors live across the country and range from new graduates to those who left the University almost 40 years ago, Figueroa says, but more are needed to help cover the variety of study areas that are of interest to new students.

The Alumni Association also offers a program that teams WMU graduates with current students who want to learn more about their career options and a program that connects the University's worldwide alumni with students who have just graduated and need a little help dealing with the logistics and stress associated with moving to new and unfamiliar places.

To become a WMU alumni admissions ambassador or learn about other Alumni Association outreach programs, visit www.wmich.edu/alumni or call (269) 387-8777.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
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