Office of Development postpones Alumni Weekend

By Assistant Campus Editor

Kelly Wenzel
Alumni Weekend, an event hosted by the college every fall, has been postponed this year. The college is considering rescheduling it to the Spring 2015 semester, but an exact date has yet to be announced.

Despite Columbia’s goal of connecting with alumni, the college has postponed this year’s Alumni Weekend while Jonathan Stern, the new vice president of Development, evaluates the alumni program.

The event, which was supposed to take place in late September, consists of a series of workshops and gatherings for the benefit of alumni. Last year’s Alumni Weekend was held Sept. 27–28.

Stern emphasized that the event was only being postponed and is not   being terminated.

“Being new here, I wanted more time to evaluate the program and the weekend [event],” he said. “I wanted an opportunity to learn more about what our alumni would [really] be looking for in connecting to the college.”

While national board members  of the Chicago alumni chapter were made aware of the decision to cancel the weekend through word-of-mouth and an email directly to the board, the school has not notified the broader spectrum of alumni directly, either through email or by phone call, and Stern says there are no current plans to do so.

The college is considering hosting Alumni Weekend sometime during the Spring 2015 semester, he added. Stern said he expects to become more familiar with the program and start thinking about its future.

Many of the events served as a way for alumni to network with their peers and brand themselves in their career, according to Sarah Schroeder, director of Alumni Relations. The annual weekend  event has been a positive and popular occasion for the college’s alumni, Schroeder said in an Aug. 19 email.

Emory Brown, a 2000 marketing communication graduate and secretary of the Alumni Board’s Chicago Chapter, said he was aware of the changes to Alumni Weekend but was disappointed he had not received an explanation of the cancellation or told any plans for the future of the event or the alumni program from the college.

“I don’t have any direct details on why it has been postponed,” Brown said. “I know there’s a lot of changes happening at the school with Dr. Kim coming in [as the new college president] and with [Jonathan] Stern being [the new VP of Development] there.”

Brown said he would like the college to send a formal notice to the alumni in case those who planned to attend the event are unaware of the recent cancellation and changes to the program.

“I think it’d be kind of naive if the school didn’t say anything,” Brown said. “We’re a communications [and media] school.”

Stern said that an alternative alumni event is currently scheduled for Oct. 17.

“[As] sponsors of the Chicago International Film Festival, we are holding the tentatively-titled Columbia Night,” Stern said. “We’re still doing a significant event with our alumni.”

Noting he plans to focus on more recent alumni, Stern said a goal is creating new programs to help alumni connect to each other along with undergraduates to allow everyone to network for job opportunities.

Joan Hammel, president of the Alumni Association and alumni of Columbia College, said she has been creating numerous ways to connect distinguished alumni with current undergraduate students.

Hammel said she has kept up with the changes to the annual Alumni Weekend event by emails sent by the board and by hearsay of other alumni but that she, too, has not received any information directly from Stern.

“Jonathan Stern wanted more time to assess the program and see what the alumni wanted,” Hammel said. “[The Alumni Board and I] are looking forward to the date we can sit down with [Stern] and share with him our thoughts and ideas.”