by Shelby Johnston
The University of Windsor’s primary campaign is to “promise” an exceptional experience for Lancers during their time as a student. Eventually, students graduate – at least that’s the hope. What’s the promise then?
Well, I think graduates can count on perfunctory alumni newsletters through email, invites to networking events and reunions, and probably routine phone calls hoping we’re employed at willing to donate. These seem like safe bets. But shouldn’t there be something more?
Attending and completing university is one of the most anticipated milestones in life, so the relationship shouldn’t end as you walk across the stage at convocation.
Often your university experience is shaped through the university athletic and recreation programs explain Jake Rondot, Director on the Board and Committee Member of the Alumni Association.
“Lancer Athletics means so much to so many alumni. When you’re a student, whether as a varsity athlete or a fan attending a game, or individuals using the fitness or intramural programming, most (alumni) have been positively impacted by the athletics and the recreation department in some way,” says Rondot.
Looking at the campus today, there’s clearly a strong partnership between the Alumni Association and the Athletics and Recreation. From being a major donor of Alumni Field, the football homecoming adopting the term “alumni weekend,” to the Lancer Sports Hall of Fame ceremony, it is obvious that the University of Windsor wants to honour previous students through athletics.
More opportunities exist, however, to engage our alumni with Lancer sporting events. For instance, incentivizing attendance with home game ticket discounting, encouraging alumni to attend pre- or post-game get-togethers beyond the occasional tailgate, retiring jersey numbers of past sports stars, or even planning events at away games when Lancers are on the road. These ideas could all be great ways to get alumni to dust off their blue and gold and come to campus, show their school pride, and entice them to come out of other alumni events.
Rondot, very proud UWindsor alumni, explains that there will always be that eternal joy when cheering on a Lancer team.
“I think it’s a great idea to continue to look for new and unique ways to link alumni with Lancer sporting events,” says Rondot.
Rondot even ponders why discounted prices are not currently available at home varsity games.
Mike Havey, the University of Windsor Athletic Director, acknowledges the absence of alumni ticket pricing. Although, in regards jersey retirement, Havey explains that it is a “question that comes up periodically from alumni” and points to hockey player Ken Minello as the only retired number in the history of the Windsor Lancers.
If the question has come up before, why has it not received more traction?
“Culturally and historically, it is not common to honour a college player (by retiring their jersey number) due to the fact that the turnover is constant with the four to five years roster change,” says Havey.
Havey explains that traditionally in intercollegiate sports there was a restriction in the amount of numbers allocated towards a sport. Due to the limited availability, retiring numbers maybe doesn’t make sense. Havey says the rules to accommodate more numbers in present-day make retiring ones of past glory more “doable” than before.
Bestowing these honours seems like a way to show appreciation to former star athletes and could be a way to energize alumni enthusiasm for Lancer sports.
When the Alumni Association re-developed their strategic plan in 2016 with a group of business students, they found that many alumni expressed that the only communication they received from the University of Windsor after completing their degree was a request for donations. By integrating more micro-level initiatives like the aforementioned ideas, the Athletics Department and Alumni Association can strengthen the engagement with alumni within their five years following graduation. Building that relationship early increases the likelihood of former students being engaged in their new role as alumni and will make them more likely donors when they’re positioned to give back.
There is a great opportunity for Lancer Athletics to act as a bridge closing the gap between the current relationship with the University of Windsor and the alumni population. By working as a team, together the Alumni Association and Athletics can in fact ‘promise’ an enduring experience for its students.
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