A New Journey for TXST Alumni (cover story)
All graduates are important part of the Bobcat family
The Texas State Alumni Association has made some big changes — a new membership strategy, new offices, and some new faces. All graduates are an important part of the Bobcat family, at no cost and with no application. Focusing on alumni engagement is a national trend and this new membership model is spreading from coast to coast.
In her August 2020 commencement remarks, President Denise Trauth endorsed this when she said: “Your time as a student here may be done, but I hope this place will forever feel like a home to you. You have transitioned from students to alumni. I am proud to welcome all of you to an alumni network that is now over 200,000 strong.”
The Alumni Association’s changes have been very positive, explains Cindy Williams (B.B.A. ’77), president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. “All Bobcats now share in the alumni experience and the bond that comes from having graduated from Texas State University.
“This move is a conversation game changer: Instead of asking if a graduate is a member, we can now say, ‘You are a Texas State alumnus; how would you like to be involved?’ Involvement can range from reading an email, perusing the website, joining in on a virtual lecture, attending an event, or volunteering for a committee or board. The opportunities are endless, and involvement can match with the stage of life and desires of our Bobcats.
“Our vision is to connect Bobcats to serve, strengthen, support, and celebrate Texas State University. Our mission is to create a community of alumni, students, and friends with a commitment to invest in the future of our university. This new structure embraces the ideology behind these core principles,” Williams says.
In surveys and in comments from the Young Alumni Council and the association board, the overwhelming response was that alumni were looking for programming that was more meaningful and purposeful than simply social interaction.
The shift to staff-driven events and programming, with less planning and execution responsibility resting on the shoulders of alumni volunteers in chapters, is also part of the new strategy. Reed Rallojay and Kathryn Arnold, assistant directors of alumni engagement, are responsible for regional programming.
“The university is coming to you,” Arnold says. Alumni, staff, and possibly university administration may attend these university-sponsored events. As planners, Arnold and Rallojay are dividing the major Texas cities and some of the alumni-heavy areas in and outside of Texas.
Part of the emphasis will be more family-centered events, Rallojay explains. “Even though we are not having the volunteers plan the events, alumni are going to play a huge role in providing information that we don’t have. They can give us information and insights into the culture of their community. Maybe they are the ones who can give us recommendations — we could tag on to something that is already happening there,” he says. Rallojay’s examples include future San Antonio Fiesta events, or special experiences at the Houston Arboretum or the Dallas Zoo. The changes are designed to build long-term interaction and broaden engagement with alumni.
During his term as president, Ernie Dominguez (B.A. ’04) says the board began looking at how other universities were changing alumni models. A former student body president and homecoming king, Dominguez is credited with suggesting the name Forever Bobcats to recognize alumni who have provided cumulative support of $1,000 to the Alumni Association. For younger alumni, those who graduated within the last five years, there is also a special Forever Bobcat rate of $500. Forever Bobcats will receive university bookstore discounts, invitations to exclusive events, discounts at University Camp, and specially branded recognition items.
Traditions such as honoring Distinguished Alumni and the Young Alumni Rising Stars during Homecoming will continue. The twice-yearly Texas State ring ceremony is a popular alumni event. Last December, 589 new graduates plunged their rings in water from the San Marcos River in front of family and friends at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.
The Alumni and Future Student Welcome Center relocated in 2019 to newly created space in the LBJ Student Center. Space has nearly doubled to more than 5,300 square feet. This center is conveniently located at the entrance to the third floor, adjacent to the LBJSC parking garage and a campus bus stop. The shared space is also where future Bobcats can begin campus tours and boast a small library of Pedagog yearbooks and archive images in the Past Presidents Library.
Enhancing alumni engagement, providing services to alumni, and broadening programming efforts are supported by gifts to the Alumni Priority Fund. These gifts can be made online at alumni.txstate.edu, by phone at (512) 245-2371, or by mail to Texas State University, 601 University Drive, JC Kellam Suite No. 480, San Marcos, TX 78666. ✪