A record-breaking 3,721 degrees were given during Autumn Commencement Sunday. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Station Manager

With commencement right around the corner, Ohio State’s Alumni Association will soon welcome 11,700 new members to its “Buckeye for Life” family, and the association has a plan to continue engaging those graduates after May 6.

Last May, OSUAA began implementing a new plan to strengthen the network of Ohio State graduates nationwide. Its plan incorporates seven strategies presented to the Board of Trustees last week, with three tactics to drive each forward, and a team leader appointed to each strategy.

“To say the board is excited about the plan is really an understatement,” said Kristin Watt, chair of OSUAA Board of Directors. “We are weaving it into practically pretty much everything we are doing. Creating the plan was truly a labor of love and we believe the plan honors our past and sets our course for today and the future.”

The quickly approaching test of this new strategy will be how effective the plan is at engaging new classes of alumni.

“It has inspired us to think bigger, and to connect dots that maybe previously weren’t connected as we think forward to the graduating class that will be here shortly. We have a comprehensive plan and a new way to engage those 10,000-plus,” said Justin Fincher, chief operating officer of OSUAA.

The Alumni Association conducted market research projects to understand how alumni view their membership to provide more relevant programming to alumni and allow them to have a stronger connection to Ohio State.

An important piece to this end goal will be understanding what the Alumni Association can do to make recent graduates feel like their membership is beneficial to them.

Alumni are an integral part of the institution, as seen by the Day of Giving, devoted to garnering monetary support for the university, specifically targeting its alumni and students.

“I can’t help but see the Day of Giving as a perfect example of our strategic plan in action,” Watt said. “It connected the passions of alumni and friends to Ohio State’s efforts to educate students, solve problems and transform the world: words right out of our strategic plan.”

OSUAA hopes to create a culture of alumni who care as deeply for the university as Kenneth Hale, the recipient of last year’s Alumni Medalist Award winner, does. Hale gave a presentation of his self-written poem “Buckeye Benediction,” dedicated to his lifelong passion for Ohio State at the awards ceremony, which was shown at the Board meeting.

The Alumni Association’s strategic plan was crafted by paying attention to small details, like singular words. Phrases were debated to ensure it was unique to the land-grant university’s culture and identity. Many of the chosen words relate to Ohio’s heritage.

“Because of looking at the universities, that took us back to say, ‘You know what, we need to revise our mission and vision,’” said Janet Porter, a member of the Advancement Committee. “And our [previous] mission and vision statement could have been University of Michigan’s or Appalachian State, I mean it didn’t even have the word Buckeye in it.”

She said each word was discussed, specifically on whether it represents the university’s agricultural roots.  

After detailing “We want to be the heart, we want to be the place, we want to be the locus and so we picked heart because Ohio is the heart of it all,” Porter said.

Time and change will show how successful OSUAA’s comprehensive plan will be at engaging the new class of Buckeye alumni come May 6.