On the 22nd of May 2023, the International Relations Office successfully organised a conference on international alumni relations and the benefits of establishing an international alumni network for our university. The keynote speaker was Sandra Rinc贸n, an expert on international alumni who has written extensively about the topic. The event aimed to inspire and engage stakeholders within our institution, particularly colleagues who are currently working with international students and alumni.

Gwena毛lle Poulet, our international alumni policy researcher, kicked off the conference by shedding light on the VUB alumni landscape and providing insights and key findings into the current status of our alumni. Her comprehensive research survey indicated that a significant majority of international alumni choose to remain in Belgium after completing their studies, despite coming from all corners of the globe. Another compelling highlight was the recognition of a strong desire among individuals to actively engage and support international alumni. This crucial observation underscored the imperative need to allocate our resources effectively in order to cultivate a thriving network.

The highlight of the conference was the captivating keynote speech titled "The Hidden Power of Alumni," by Sandra Rinc贸n, an esteemed author of the book, "Engaging International Alumni as Strategic Partners." During her talk, Rinc贸n showed the audience the untapped potential that lies within alumni networks and how they can be effectively used to benefit our university through continued engagement. She emphasized the significance of a circular process encompassing locating, engaging, asking,  recognising, and nurturing these alumni. By following this cycle, institutions can establish meaningful connections and leverage the immense potential of their alumni network. Furthermore, Rinc贸n stressed the necessity of establishing common purposes and goals within the institution. Mapping internal stakeholders and creating a concise road map not only provides a clear direction but also enables the effective allocation of resources, metrics, and budget planning.

students graduating grand place

Sandra Rinc贸n further outlined three essential pillars for successful international alumni relations. The first pillar, investment, stresses the significance of long-term commitment, shared goals, and the allocation of necessary budget. The second pillar, mutual benefit, highlights the importance of understanding the alumni's perspective and needs. Lastly, the third pillar, stakeholders, encompasses engaging all relevant individuals and entities to ensure continuous engagement and nurturing of the alumni network.

Her presentation provided valuable insights and a strategic framework for institutions to enhance their international alumni relations. By investing in these pillars and adopting a holistic approach, universities can foster long-lasting connections, maximize alumni engagement, and unlock the immense potential that lies within their international alumni network.

Rinc贸n鈥檚 talk was followed by a presentation by Serge Sych, an expert on alumni relations with more than 25 years鈥 experience. In his interactive session, Sych outlined a comprehensive framework for constructing effective alumni relations. He detailed four progressive stages that institutions can strive to achieve, starting with short-term projects with limited leadership support and ending with having a long-term strategy supported by high-level leadership, executed by a dedicated alumni relations unit. 

Sych's presentation offered valuable guidance on the progressive development of alumni relations. By understanding and working towards these stages, universities can effectively build and strengthen their alumni networks, fostering long-term engagement and support.

The formal part of the conference ended with a dynamic panel discussion, featuring external experts who shed light on the significance of alumni relations The panellists were Sandra Rinc贸n herself, Serge Sych, Karin Vanderkerken鈥擵ice Rector of Internationalisation at VUB, Juan Ray贸n Gonz谩lez鈥擯resident of the Erasmus Student Network, and Dennis Hermans鈥擧ead of Alumni Relations at VUB. The panel discussion proved to be a thought-provoking session, with the panellists sharing their valuable experiences, ideas, and best practices for cultivating meaningful alumni relationships. It offered an opportunity to discuss the possibilities at VUB and understand how these networks can be developed with dedicated time for questions from the audience.

A networking reception concluded the conference, where the attendees connected with each other and established meaningful relationships with industry experts in the field of alumni relations, as well as colleagues from various departments within the university.

The conference proved to be an invaluable event for our university. It highlighted the importance of maintaining strong connections with our alumni and emphasized the immense potential within our global network. By actively engaging our international alumni, we can tap into their expertise, knowledge, and resources to enhance the reputation and growth of our institution.

We extend our gratitude to the keynote speakers, panellists, and attendees for their active participation and contribution to the success of the event. With the knowledge gained and connections established, our university is poised to strengthen its alumni relations and foster a vibrant international alumni network that will continue to benefit our institution for years to come. By investing in the development of such a network, we can harness the collective potential of our alumni and foster a community that nurtures both the university and our alumni.