Published on November 17, 2021 at 5:42 p.m.
by Elise Luoma
From the inaugural opening of the university in 1831 with just 52 students to the current 38,320 students enrolled, several public relations campaigns, the “Advancing the Flagship” strategic plan, strong athletics and close alumni relations have contributed to this enrollment boom.
UA prepares its students with employer engagement, career development and experiential learning opportunities.
The UA National Alumni Association promotes a “spirit of fellowship among the alumni, provides a continuous flow of information on the progress and needs of the university” in over 100 chapters.
Calvin Brown, director of alumni affairs and associate vice president for University Advancement, said, “We are among the largest alumni base scholarship programs in the nation. Student recruitment and scholarship are two areas where we think we contribute to the communities where our alums live to change a young person’s life by sending them to the university.” He explained that alumni contributions to the university are ways to keep students engaged. “To keep young alums engaged, we tell them they are enabling us to give each year roughly $5 million to almost 3,000 new students on a large alumni base,” Brown said.
Former UA President Robert Witt’s hiring of head football coach Nick Saban has created a strong enrollment increase from 2007 to now, according to Brown. “The total education [at UA] is so much better now, not just from an academic standpoint but from the point that campus is multicultural, diverse geographically, and that’s the way the world is. When you get out, you’re ready,” Brown asserted.
“Where Legends Are Made”
The 2016 six-award-winning UA brand campaign, “Where Legends Are Made,” was created by Linda Bonnin and delivered legendary success and outreach to stakeholders. Tiffanie Bittle, UA director of parent philanthropy, said, “I think the campaign has helped in the growth of the university in that, yes we have a list of notable alumni, but to truly become a legend, it starts with the UA student experience. The university offers the best of the best — from our state-of-the-art Adapted Athletics facilities to our simulation labs in the Nursing School and the Digital Media Center in C&IS [College of Communication and Information Sciences].”
As described by the university’s Division of Strategic Communications, the campaign “speaks to the aspirations of our students and their parents, to the pride of our alumni and donors, and to the devotion of our legions of fans in our state, across the nation and around the globe. It highlights our successes and the legacy we will continue to build upon.” Today, The University of Alabama is recognizing rising legends and accepting suggestions of people who have made “significant contributions” to UA. Apparel, print advertisements, television commercials, billboards and #WhereLegendsAreMade on social media have strengthened this campaign.
The College of Communication and Information Sciences offers The Oakley Society, the Industry Immersion program and C&IS Coffee Club to enrich its students’ experience. Bittle explained, “With all of the alumni I have connected with, they all want to help our students and especially hire our students — legends helping legends.” She advised students to utilize LinkedIn to make connections and to reach out to alumni during classroom visits and professional development workshops.
UA’s Career Center prepares students to make their mark on the world and transition post-college. Its mission is to “partner with students as they explore possibilities, develop skills, and connect with opportunities related to their professional endeavors.” Amy Bramlett, manager of the C&IS Career Center, said, ”When we can connect current students with alumni, magic seems to happen.” She further described the success of career fairs, alumni recruiting students and career development. “When you find the thing you want to be involved in, do more than what is expected. For instance, if you get connected to alumni, ask for an informational interview and then ask them to refer you to someone as well … start a chain,” she advised.
Sara Hartley, associate dean of undergraduate studies and external relations in C&IS, said that her experience interacting and keeping up with alumni for over 13 years is an energizing experience. “Closing the loop with students starts with building a community. This is working because alumni want to get involved and to serve our students through time or talent,” she noted.
Public relations campaigns, alumni involvement and “legends” all contribute to UA’s recruitment and engagement strategies.