Bye-bye, U alumni

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By Tess Skoller

Under a headline saying that a “Union Education Opens Doors,” the Union College website lists some of the school’s more notable alumni, and rightly claims that “for more than two centuries, Union College has proudly watched its alumni go on to greatness in a wide range of fields and leave an indelible mark on society. From authors to athletes, politicians to playwrights, college presidents to a U.S. President… our alumni take their Union education into the world and use it to make an impact.”

Union is a small but mighty college—in no small part because of the commitment and strength of its alumni network and their generosity with their time and their treasury.

Our alumni recognize Union as the most important time in their lives because it’s where they found themselves and their passions. This can be seen through the generous donations from the “Minerva” alumni (such as the Wold, Messa, Sorum, Beuth, Breazzano and Golub families) and the landmark buildings and campus facilities named for other generous alumni benefactors (the Viniar Athletic Center, the F.W. Olin Center, and too many others to list).

And just as importantly (perhaps even more so in these challenging economic times), our alumni give generously of their time and counsel for current students completing their studies and embarking on their own post-Union careers and lives.

For this reason, it was very disheartening to learn that a prominent alumna recently asked to be removed from the alumni database that is maintained in the Becker Career Center. Kate White ’72, who is the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and a widely read novelist, recently took herself out of the alumni database. White is an extremely successful alumna and could have been an important resource for any current students interested in careers in journalism or publishing (granted, not a majority at Union).

Senior Associate Director of the Becker Career Center Pete Fowler said that White stated that she was being contacted too often, and asked to be removed from the database.

Is this an isolated circumstance or does this portend a bigger problem?  Surely our alumni remember where and how they started their own careers and the importance of finding well-placed connections in the “real world” when college studies are ending and the job world beckons.

How often was White contacted by current Union students that she was compelled to ask to be de-listed in the alumni database? Are our current students abusing the opportunity to reach out to our alumni network for help, advice or even a job? Is that even possible given the nature of the relationships?

This is an unfortunate loss. I hope that Union will recognize and possibly discover the real reason why White removed herself from the database and fix the issue so that we don’t lose other prestigious alumni who can be important points of contact for current students trying to understand how and where to take their “Union education into the world and use it to make an impact.”

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