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Getting to Know SUNY Empire State College: Interview with Maureen Winney

By Suzanne Lazar, student, SUNY Empire State College, editor, The Student Connection

October 20, 2016

Feature The interview series “Getting to Know SUNY Empire State College” continues with Maureen Winney, director of alumni and student relations.  Winney’s contributions at the college, for more than two decades, have been such an important piece in building the alumni community inside and outside of the college. 

I had the honor and pleasure of talking with Winney about her passion for alumni and student relations at SUNY Empire. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: Can you tell me about your role at SUNY Empire and when you joined this educational institution?

A: I’ve been with SUNY Empire for 22 years as the director of alumni and student relations.  It is true that we don’t have sports teams, dorms or those traditional ways to connect alumni to the school.  But what we do have, which I truly believe sets us apart, is an office of alumni AND student relations.  Everything we do includes students and most all of our student activities include alumni.

This integrated model has served us quite well over the years.  Alumni and students at SUNY Empire have a very unique bond.  Going to school as an adult, balancing family, work and life, is something that only SUNY Empire students and alums can relate to.  They know first-hand, the challenges that each has had to face. 

When we group together alumni and current students, no matter what the activity is, they begin conversations of support and understanding. 

Q:  In what ways will the one-college concept benefit alumni and student relations?

A: We’ve been very excited about the collaboration opportunities that the one-college concept offers.  For instance, alumni are volunteering in record numbers to assist the office of enrollment management at open houses and information sessions.

Having alumni share their stories with prospective students has proven more valuable than anything a student can read.  Just hearing the stories of accomplishment and perseverance has been incredibly encouraging and helpful in new student enrollment as well as retention efforts.

Q: What are your long-term goals for building the alumni population and retention of alumni?

A: Providing as many engagement opportunities is our number one priority.  We hold more than 130 alumni student events a year, we have an alumni student magazine that is published twice a year, we have a newly revised alumni student website, as well as a large social media presence. 

We push for the 78,000 alumni and 18,000 students to stay connected.  Not everyone can make the events we hold, but if not, we encourage any news you have to share for the magazine and hope you follow our news and updates Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share or talk about?  

A: Yes, we have a new initiative formed out of the alumni student federation board of governors called “Pay It Forward.”  The concept is giving back to communities.  Students are a large part of this program but enthusiastically invite faculty, staff and alumni to join.  For instance, our students are organizing a drive for the Ronald McDonald Houses, by setting up collection boxes and coordinating drop offs to the different Ronald McDonald houses throughout the state.

We have so many great ways to give back whether you’re an alumni or a current student.  We would love to have more students get involved.  The commitment can be just as much as they can do throughout the year in person or via social media. 

To learn more, please visit www.esc.edu/alumni or contact Lindsay Valenti, Associate Director of Alumni and Student Relations at:  Lindsay.Valenti@esc.edu.

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