Alumni Association uses electronic survey to gauge attitudes, loyalty
Earlier this year, the Alumni Association conducted a survey to gauge alumni perceptions and attitudes about their experiences both as students and as alumni of George Mason University. The Alumni Association was interested in gathering information to assist in its strategic planning.
The survey tool selected was the Alumni Attitude Study developed by Performance Enhancement Group. Mason was one of 40 universities to participate in the cooperative survey and played an integral role in developing the instrument. Survey questions covered demographics, overall opinion of the university, student experience, alumni experience and involvement, and loyalty.
The survey was sent to all alumni with an e-mail address on record. Of those surveyed, 14 percent responded, providing the Alumni Association with valuable feedback to assist with planning. Of those who responded, 28 percent had graduated since 2001, 33 percent between 1994 and 2000, 30 per-cent between 1981 and 1993, 7 percent between 1974 and 1980, and 2 percent before 1973. Of those who responded, 59 percent have undergraduate degrees from Mason, 30 percent have graduate degrees from Mason, and 11 percent have both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Among respondents, 48 percent support the university financially and another 28 percent plan to contribute in the future. Of those respondents who contribute financially to the university, their gifts most commonly are designated to the Annual Fund or a college or department.
Virginia residents made up 68 percent of the respondents. Survey respondents were representative of the distribution pool in all demographic categories including age, degree year, ethnicity, and geographic location. Women responded at a somewhat higher rate than men.
Overall Opinion of the University
Alumni reported having an overall positive opinion of the university and promoted the university to others. Ninety-three percent described their current overall opinion of the university as good or excellent; 93 percent said that it was a good or great decision to attend Mason; and 96 percent promote Mason to others, 50 percent of whom do so regularly or all the time. The areas having the greatest impact on respondents' overall opinion of the university included value and respect for degree; faculty, student, and alumni accomplishments; rankings; media visibility; and campus aesthetics.
Alumni stated that the university did a good job in preparing them for their current careers, its commitment to continuous learning, deepening their understanding of community and personal development, and furthering graduate education. The highest rating was given to commitment to continuous learning. Generally, the ratings increased in relation to the age of the respondent, with the oldest alumni responding most favorably.
Most respondents—92 percent—feel that their experience as a student at Mason was good or excellent. Alumni rated the following as most important in terms of their student experience: academics and classes, skills and training for career, relationships with faculty, exposure to new things, the admissions process, and relationships with other students.
The respondents were most satisfied with how well the university provided academics and classes, the admissions process, and cultural events; they were least satisfied with how well the university supported students attending athletic events, provided lessons about life, and traditions or values learned on campus.
Of the respondents, 32 percent participated in professional or career-related organizations as students, 25 percent were in honor societies, 22 percent were involved in community service organizations, and 18 percent lived in residence halls on campus. With the exception of living on campus, the top three activities cut across age and graduation year demographics. Because the dramatic growth of on-campus housing has only taken place in the past 10 years, those who lived in residence halls tended to be more recent graduates.
Alumni Experience and Involvement
Alumni identified the following as activities they most frequently engage in as alumni: reading MasonWire, the alumni e-newsletter; reading the Mason Spirit, the alumni magazine; visiting the university web site; visiting the university; getting in touch with other alumni; and visiting the alumni web site. Those under age 25 were less likely to read the alumni magazine and those over age 63 were less likely to get in touch with other alumni.
Alumni gave the highest performance ratings to the following communication methods: MasonWire, the Mason Spirit, and the alumni web site. Communication about services and benefits received the lowest performance rating.
Ninety-three percent said that it was a good or great decision to attend Mason.
According to the survey, the following are the most important activities in which alumni should be engaged (listed by order of importance):
Respondents indicated the university does a good job of encouraging alumni to provide financial support for the university and to attend athletic events. The university received the less favorable ratings for providing opportunities to volunteer for the university, to provide leadership by serving on boards, to network with other alumni, and to mentor students.
Respondents reported that they relate most strongly to the university as a whole (62 percent), followed by their academic degree department (49 percent). In addition, 64 percent of respondents have maintained contact with friends, 33 percent with faculty, 22 percent with student organization members, and 21 percent with staff and/or administrators. In addition, 63 percent of respondents would be interested in family activities that would be appropriate for children ages 12 and under.
The survey was designed to provide a loyalty index based on four broad questions measuring overall decision to attend the university, promotion of the university to others, overall student experience, and overall alumni experience. The highest correlations to loyalty across all questions related to satisfaction with the way the university prepared alumni for responding to new career opportunities, contributing to their community, commitment to continuous learning, deepening understanding and commitment to personal development, current work status, and further graduate education, as well as their overall satisfaction with academics and classes and the importance they place on the value and respect of their degree.
In response to the feedback provided in the Alumni Attitude Study, the Alumni Association's Board of Directors will incorporate the following initiatives into the association's Strategic Plan:
“These survey results will be used to create more opportunities for alumni to network with one another and to stay connected to the university,” says Cathy Lemmon, BA '86 and MA '93, the incoming association president.
Most respondents—92 percent—feel that their experience as a student at Mason was good or excellent
“The Alumni Attitude Survey results create a beneficial benchmark for the Alumni Association,” says Chris Clark-Talley, executive director of alumni affairs. “We can see where we are on track and where we need to focus our continuing efforts to engage and inform Mason alumni.”
The Alumni Association wishes to thank everyone who participated in the survey. Periodic updates will be forthcoming in future issues of the Mason Spirit and MasonWire. If you are not receiving the monthly e-newsletter, please register online at gmuapps.gmu.edu/alumni or e-mail your address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Alumni Association is committed to engaging alumni in the life of George Mason University and welcomes your ongoing participation. By staying informed, you can help provide valuable input and keep the association strong.