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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Alumni need to be more involved at Brandeis

Published: October 17, 2014
Section: Opinions

As part of an anthropology on aging class I’m taking this semester, I recently visited a nearby assisted living facility and had lunch with some of the residents. It was certainly interesting to notice the two distinct groups in the population—the elderly one and the staff charged to take care of them. While there is the occasional visitor, either a relative or perhaps a student like myself, arriving to add some sort of outside perspective, this nursing facility is pretty much self-enclosed. And this bears a great comparison with the community at Brandeis.

There are the students, a majority of whom live on campus like the residents of a nursing facility, and then there are the faculty and staff who are paid to be here and eventually head home for the evening. There is a lot of interaction between both parties, and eventually the interactions that you have with the same people you see and cross paths with around campus becomes monotonous. If you maintain a certain schedule, eventually you will notice you see the same people in the same spots each day. And this becomes not just repetitive, but depressing as well and is something that should be addressed.

This community is often referred to as the “Brandeis Bubble.” In order to change the attitude that comes with this stereotype, more effort should be put into promoting the campus and bringing outsiders here and interacting with the community. Be it through visiting the Rose or attending a symposium, there are multiple opportunities for people without any business being on campus to come for a visit.

And this does happen fairly often. Waltham locals regularly attend concerts and performances. Waltham Group organizations like Afternoon Enrichment or General Tutoring invite area children to Brandeis as part of their outreach. Even beyond that, you can always find someone jogging around Loop Road or walking their dog whom you wouldn’t expect to see at a university. Yet these visitors do not exactly know what it means to be from Brandeis, nor are they especially excited to be on campus other than to utilize the facilities and resources here. While we need to welcome anyone who wants to visit, there’s a certain group that should be more visible around campus, and that’s the alumni.

This weekend happens to be homecoming weekend, so various alumni will be around—mostly former athletes to see their teams compete. There’s not much likelihood that more alumni will stop by after this weekend dedicated to them, especially none of the older people who don’t have any friends still attending the school. With a large portion of Brandeis students originating from the Northeast and moving onto careers in the region as well, it shouldn’t be that difficult to bring together a group of alums to stop by campus each month rather than limiting it to a single homecoming weekend in the fall.

The alumni are an invaluable resource for students and faculty alike to come back and report on what is going on in the world beyond the field of academia. Students have the most to gain, since so many alumni have had great success in their fields and could certainly help students network, make connections and eventually land a job. An alum could even prove to be a mentor to someone with similar interests and guide them on how best to utilize their education at Brandeis, something the alumni have personal experience with. And for faculty, simply catching up with old students and seeing the positive effects they’ve had on the graduate can be a real morale booster.

It would be nice to just see some past students stop by and be excited to be back and give students some perspective to appreciate what they have already. And it would be nice to see some past students excited to call themselves Brandeisians so that current students know they’ve made the right decision on which college to attend.

Whether it be with a formal lecture from alumni on their career path and how much the school helped them or just inviting alumni to walk around campus and interact with students, there should be no incentive needed in attracting alumni back to Brandeis. The administration should not see them as simply a population of wallets with the potential to donate, but as a vital aspect of the community that has unfortunately been underrepresented. While some alumni might not be the most willing to travel back, there are some who would be more than happy to be welcomed back to Brandeis. This school doesn’t need to feel like a nursing home where only a few sets of people interact. There are plenty of avenues to head down in order to liven up and diversify the community. Inviting more alumni more frequently is simply the widest one to take.