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Michigan Tech Tops at Keeping Students and Alumni Engaged

Student Affairs and Advancement’s life cycle of engagement receives highest accolade from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) awards Michigan Technological University’s Student Affairs and Advancement’s life cycle of engagement model its Grand Gold designation in the general advancement–collaborative programs category.

Michigan Technological University’s Student Affairs and Advancement’s life cycle engagement model, one of 25 nominees, was the unanimous winner

The CASE judges wrote, "The panel was unanimously impressed by the high level of engagement across campus communities. Michigan Tech links the entire student experience—from demonstrated interest to alumni engagement—in one replicable model." 

Bill Roberts, associate vice president for Advancement and Alumni Engagement, explains the life cycle as “The successful fusion of Michigan Tech’s Student Affairs and Advancement units—the unique organizational model that engages students from pre-college programs through their planned gift.”

What is the life cycle of engagement?

The Department of Student Affairs and Advancement’s (SAA) life cycle of engagement was incorporated in the years following a successful 2013 fundraising campaign. “The opportunity arose to instill a new model of what the unit could be. So that's what really was the catalyst and it launched from there,” Roberts says.

Les Cook, vice president for Student Affairs and Advancement, says the award recognizes the value of Tech’s unique structure, which realigns student services to unite divisions and departments that are often widely separated at other institutions. Four divisions:  Advancement and Alumni Engagement; Athletics and Recreation; Dean of Students; and Enrollment, Marketing and Communications, house multiple departments that specialize in important aspects of the Husky experience at Michigan Tech and beyond.

“The whole life cycle embraces this notion that if we were able to build a sense of pride, character and affinity, and invest in our students, this notion of reinvesting and supporting the University from an advancement standpoint is a really good thing,” Cook says. “There's so much energy that comes around the work that we do from the student perspective, and to have our alumni and fund-raising team involved with that, that energy then ripples out to our alums and donors, because they see it." 

circular graph. The life cycle.
 The Student Affairs and Advancement Life Cycle of Engagement Model

A visual depiction of the model shows a circle, or “the spokes and the wheel” as Roberts put it, “that make up the life cycle,” illustrating how students gain, graduate and give back. It begins with potential awareness of Tech at pre-college level, which may start with Summer Youth Programs (SYP) or hearing about the University from proud alumni in the family. Awareness is followed by recruitment, attendance, the Michigan Tech experience, student success, and becoming proud alumni, followed by reinvestment—financial or otherwise—in Michigan Tech. 

“It’s the people that make up the life cycle”

Roberts submitted the award nomination, but says the credit for the accomplishment is widespread. “It’s the people who make up this submission, who are named here, who make up the life cycle of engagement. In the division of SAA, I wanted to honor everyone and to honor Les and Glenn. They provided the avenues to make all this happen. Les and Glenn were really the pathfinders for the life cycle.”

Glenn Mroz stepped down as the University’s ninth president on July 1, after a 14-year tenure.

In addition to the 13 names on the awards submission, elementary, middle and high school students as well as undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff are credited for the success of the model, along with donors, companies and parents. The full cycle of engagement is represented, from SYP and Little Huskies Basketball to the practice of inviting alumni back to campus to share their expertise with students.

"This life cycle and all the people involved–everybody plays a role in recruiting a student. It's really the same thing: we all play a role in fundraising and stewardship."Bill Roberts, associate vice president for Advancement and Alumni Engagement 

Michigan Tech innovation rewarded

Roberts says the life cycle of engagement award is another example of Michigan Tech's commitment to lead as a globally recognized technology university that prepares students to create the future. 

“While the structure is not common on many campuses, Tech has always been known for innovation," says Roberts. “Tech is known for being distinctive. The opportunity to do something different arose; we embraced it and have reorganized to support it."

Aside from taking risks and getting hands dirty, SAA has five years of data that shows the life cycle has increased everything from alumni engagement and fundraising to enrollment. Roberts says it's gratifying for the University to be recognized by an internationally known, highly respected organization, with a unique model that could inspire other institutions. 

“CASE is the gold standard when it comes to philanthropic organizations to belong to, and the way I see it, their awards don't come easy'" says Roberts. "I am really proud to serve with all these great people and for this amazing University; why wouldn't we want to celebrate that? And this model can be replicated!”

Cook and Roberts attend the CASE awards reception later this month. In December, the pair will present at the organization's regional conference in Chicago.

“The response to our life cycle of engagement has been so overwhelming, CASE asked us to do a morning session and then to do a nontraditional session to talk about the model, so there's a lot of neat things happening that I'm excited about,” Roberts says. 

"It’s something a lot of people have put a lot of work into and I thought it was important that those people were recognized. That was the motivation behind this. It was for the team."

Since the publication of this article and the recognition by CASE, changes have been made to the life cycle, including the promotion of John Lehman to Vice President for University Relations and Enrollment. Lehman will report to the President, as well as become part of the President’s Council (former Executive Team reconfigured). University Marketing and Communications, Enrollment Services and Government Relations will continue to report to Lehman. Les Cook says, "This is really a great move for John, for student affairs and advancement and Michigan Tech." The mission of the life cycle, as recognized by CASE, will continue to guide the University moving forward. 

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.