Global graduates

Queen’s has 18 alumni branches outside Canada and the US, with memberships ranging from just a few members to several hundred

The UK branch of the Alumni Association has the largest number of members within international branches.
The UK branch of the Alumni Association has the largest number of members within international branches.

Sarah Tessier, ArtSci ’05, wasn’t born British, but thanks to a large settlement of Queen’s grads in the United Kingdom, she’s found a community overseas.

Tessier is one of many Queen’s graduates to move abroad for work or education-related purposes.

For the past two years, she’s been involved with the U.K. branch of the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) — a group of 849 alumni, the largest of Queen’s 18 international branches.

The University categorizes its alumni into three divisions, depending on where they’re situated — those living in Canada, US and internationally.

Currently, there are approximately 137,000 Queen’s alumni with 13,500 living internationally in 153 countries worldwide. Only 15 of these countries have alumni branches. Countries such as Australia have multiple branch locations varying amongst cities.

Although the U.K. branch is the University’s biggest, Tessier, who’s the branch president, said it’s still in its infancy. When she first arrived, the branch was in the process of getting up and running, as its activity had previously stalled due to volunteer turnover.

“It’s been quiet over the past couple of years which can sometimes happen with branches depending on who’s involved,” she said. “People come and go.”

Now, the eight executive members plan reunion events for alumni in the U.K.

This spring, the branch hosted a weekend event at Herstmonceux Castle. The two-day event welcomed 30 alumni from the U.K. and Europe and involved seminars taught by castle faculty on archaeology, theatre and international relations.

The branch also takes part in the annual Canada Day celebration each year at Trafalgar Square in London.

“We would hope that people attending come away with a good feeling of Queen’s and a nice reminder of how great they feel about their alma mater,” Tessier said.

Although it has over 800 members in its database, Tessier said she’s aware that there are many more alumni living in the U.K.

Not all of the University’s international branches boast large numbers; some have as little as one or two members.

One of these is the Honduras branch. Yusuf Kappaya, ArtSci ’08, is the branch leader and said he’s currently the only active member.

According to Alumni Relations, there are four alumni in Honduras.

Kappaya originally contacted QUAA about starting a branch for Central America but they instead decided to open a Honduras branch.

He received email addresses of two other alumni living in the country to contact. He emailed them, but never got a response. A third he never received the contact information for.

“I don’t know why they still have it,” he said of the branch. “The thing is there’s no mechanism to find people.”

Other very small branches include the Tasmanian branch with three members and the Moroccan branch with two.

Liz Gorman, manager of branches and students at Alumni Relations said these branches exist to maintain at least one contact in the country.

“We’re always happy still to have a contact in that area so if there are any questions or if there are recruitment opportunities or … current students who are thinking of accepting a job offer in Honduras, having an alumni contact in that area who is willing to act as a contact for those folks is very valuable,” she said.

The Association generally tends to concentrate most of its efforts in places with more alumni, she said.These efforts include events such as pub nights and student recruitment events which are mostly focused in the U.K. and Hong Kong.

Currently Hong Kong has an alumni base of 588, which is the second largest international branch behind the U.K.

According to Gorman, Hong Kong is a strong area for alumni because many students live there before coming to Queen’s.

Although there are University staff that oversee the Alumni Association’s international reach, the branches themselves are all run by volunteers.

According to Gorman, while many of them also give financial donations, the time they spend planning events is valuable for the association, she said.

Money into the University from international locations is also a focus for the administration, who actively solicits alumni donations abroad.

“We follow our alumni, from a fundraising point of view, around the world,” said Tom Hewitt, chief development officer in advancement at the University. “We sometimes travel a great distance to connect with these people, because it’s a worthwhile investment of time and effort.”

Hewitt’s job is to head up fundraising efforts for the University both in Canada and worldwide. Under his watch, there are 35 development officers hired to travel both nationally and internationally to solicit donations from alumni.

“Most of our solicitations are one-on-one meetings with potential donors,” he said. This often involves arranging fundraising events hosted by the alumnus or alumna with an invite list consisting of Queen’s graduates.

“In [the office of] Advancement, we tend to focus on those who can make large multi-year pledges, because that’s how we’ll be more successful,” Hewitt said.

The University also has a research team who determines what graduates are financially able to make large donations. Information on alumni is collected through public means, Hewitt said. They also talk to branch leaders who may be able to pinpoint the more wealthy members of their group.

“[Donors] like to know you’ve done some homework on who they are.”

Carleton University also employs a similar method of recruiting alumni donors via inviting prospective donors to international recruitment events. However, only an estimated five per cent of the approximately 125,000 alumni are living internationally, said Heather Theoret, alumni relations officer at Carleton.

Unlike Queen’s, the majority of Carleton’s graduates remain in the same city as the school.

“Because Carleton is in Ottawa, historically most of our students come from Ottawa,” Theoret said. “Currently 40,000 alumni live in the city.”

She added that developing international alumni relations is something that Carleton is interested in doing due to the increasing presence of international students.

At Carleton, the alumni branches are called ‘affiliates.’ Theoret said that the affiliates are to keep the Carleton graduates that live far away connected with their alma mater.

There are 43 affiliates, with four international branches in France, Spain, India and Hong Kong and four in the US. Hong Kong is currently the largest affiliate branch with 248 members, and Spain is the smallest with 26 members.

“Activity overseas and in the US is largely connected to all Canadian university alumni associations but we also work closely with senior administration and international recruitment office to be informed of their travel plans to reach out to alumni internationally where possible,” Theoret told the Journal via email.

She added that Carleton’s president will travel to alumni events in foreign countries in order to connect with international alumni.

When it comes to soliciting donations, the Development Office and the University Advancement Department work collaboratively. Prospective donors are invited to events where they can get caught up on the goings on at Carleton.

Theoret said keeping alumni connected and informed about Carleton becomes more challenging as the geographic distance increases.

— With files from Rosie Hales

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