Southern New Hampshire University's mission is to empower students to transform their lives through education. There are continuous opportunities to connect SNHU community members long after they have received their diplomas. Alumni who stay engaged after graduating build relationships with faculty and students to strengthen the SNHU community and continually improve the SNHU experience for all.
Kristi Durette, executive director for Alumni Engagement at SNHU, said that the university believes in making long-lasting connections with active students as well as alumni.
"All the work that I've done in higher education has focused on building communities," said Durette. "You need to build a foundation of community, affinity and pride."
Durette said that while there is a common belief that universities want to engage with alumni solely for the purpose of donations, that is not the case for SNHU.
"Giving is not a singular act at SNHU. I think a lot of folks perceive that the only value they bring to institutions are financial gifts," Durette said. "In fact, there are many valuable ways alumni give back to the SNHU community. We help to embed alumni in the student experience, both on campus and online, to demonstrate the value of staying engaged after graduation, and to inspire students to do the same."
"Our purpose is to more broadly engage alumni in the university, and engage with students and to build their network," she said. "We work with partners across the university, those who understand that engaging alumni enriches the student experience and makes it easier for all of us to reach our goals of supporting student success and maintaining a vibrant community."
Alumni engagement shows itself in many forms. A growing number of alumni are giving back as career coaches or mentors, sharing advice and professional development tactics at mock interviews, résumé critiques, job shadows, and webinars or panels. Others recruit at SNHU career and internship fairs, or engage in classroom discussions or project-based learning. Still others are working to develop strong bonds between local students, alumni and staff in regional communities, or leading service projects in the name of SNHU, or sharing their stories on social media.
Engagement in Action
The Perich-Harwood family has truly embraced a commitment of giving back to SNHU, with three generations having found meaningful ways to contribute to the community.
Peter Perich '76 '85G isn't kidding when he says that SNHU is a family affair for him. In addition to meeting his wife, Martha (Webster) Perich '75, on campus when they were both students, Perich spent much of his time at the school even when he was a teenager.
"My father worked here for almost 25 years. He was the person in charge of the developing the campus on River Road in Manchester, New Hampshire," said Perich, "and my freshman class was the first freshman class on campus."
Perich said he immediately loved the school, and was heavily involved in extracurricular activities. He was a member of the Phi Delta Psi fraternity, and also played soccer, hockey and baseball. After earning his undergraduate accounting degree, Perich returned for his master's in education. His involvement in student life and leadership continued in dedicated engagement as an alumnus, and helped shape Perich's approach to engaging students through his decades-long career as a teacher and administrator.
"Students come first," said Perich. "It's important to help get them to where they want to go, whether that's an educational goal or the next step in life." This philosophy carries Perich through his service to SNHU as an emeritus member of the Alumni Board of Directors, a guest speaker in classes and a loyal Penmen fan in the stands at many sporting events. The couple has given countless hours to the university community, as well as the greater Manchester community, in a variety of volunteer roles.
The Perichs' daughter, Krystina (Perich) Harwood '07 '12G, also graduated from the university after earning her undergraduate degree in marketing and her graduate degree in organizational leadership. She frequently volunteers at events like Homecoming, and makes it back to campus with her husband Joshua Harwood '05 '10G whenever possible.
Joshua Harwood has had a considerable impact on the SNHU community as an alumnus, a faculty member in Organizational Leadership, an administrator for Kappa Delta Phi and an incredible advocate for the university on Twitter (@ProfessorPLAY-DOH).
When Harwood first toured the campus as a prospective student in the early 2000s, the school - known then as New Hampshire College - immediately drew him in.
"It was my first interactions with the admission counselor, the secretary at the counter and the first tour guide that really swayed my decision about where I was going," said Harwood. "I really just fell in love with the school."
While Harwood was looking forward to start a new adventure at SNHU, his experience during his time in undergrad made a lasting impression. "In the community where I was living, we were all so close. Everyone kind of took care of everybody else, good or bad. It felt like a family, and everyone wanted to be there," he said.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Harwood worked as a business administrator with Hannaford, with 14 locations in New Hampshire and Maine, and 250 employees reporting to him. He hadn't planned on seeking further education after completing his bachelor's degree, but with the encouragement of his parents, he decided to return to SNHU.
Though he was reluctant to go back to school, on the first day of his first graduate term, Harwood realized he was exactly where he was supposed to be. His professor, the late Dr. Burt Kaliski, inspired Harwood to be a teacher: "Class one, day one, and he persuaded me. I was all in."
Ironically, up until that first class, Harwood never aspired to be a teacher. He came from a family of teachers, but did not believe he would be suited for it. He had thought by studying business education, he would work with businesses on corporate trainings.
"My wife always says, 'everything happens for a reason,'" Harwood said. "Had I not listened to mom and dad, I might not be sitting here today at SNHU as an instructor in the School of Business. But it all fell into place."
Nourishing a Growing Network
Durette said that the SNHU alumni population has more than doubled in the past five years. As of April 2018, there are more than 95,000 graduates, and the university will hit 100,000 alumni by the May Commencement ceremonies. "We have alumni living in all 50 states and in countries all over the world, from Rwanda to Canada to Italy. Most of our alumni population has graduated within the last 10 years, meaning their experience and insights are incredibly relevant to our current students," she explained.
The integration of technology has allowed the Office of Alumni Engagement to make huge strides in how alumni engage - both locally and from all over the world. Recently, a small group of alumni in Canada had a virtual meet-up from three different time zones.
"The lovely surprise out of that experience was how the folks were so happy to just visually connect. All four of us had our faces on screen, we just had this delight of getting to know each other," said Durette. "It was like meeting a new friend."
While the term "alumni" commonly refers today to graduates or former students, the word "alumnus," in its Latin origin, literally means, "to nourish."
"When I think about the Perichs and the Harwoods, I think about how deep their roots are to New Hampshire College and to Southern New Hampshire University," said Durette. "Their sense of family, grounding and stewardship of that legacy by volunteering and helping others who are just starting their journey with the university - that's something I'm in awe of and appreciative to witness."
For alumni wishing to explore the many ways to get involved, or for staff and faculty wishing to learn more about engaging alumni, we invite you to visit alumni.snhu.edu or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie Dugan is a graduate assistant in the Office of Institutional Advancement, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations.