February 18, 2008
‘Emory Around Town’ comes to neighborhoods to make connection
Eric Rangus is the director of communications for the Emory Alumni Association.
For alumni, reconnecting to Emory used to mean stepping foot on campus. That’s understandably difficult for graduates who live in Chicago, Los Angeles or Nashville, which is why the Emory Alumni Association is proud of its 40 regional chapters around the country.
But what about Atlanta? More than 33,000 Emory alumni live in the Atlanta area. The capital of Georgia is an Emory town. Reconnecting should be easy for local alumni. All they have to do is get in their car and drive over for a visit to the alma mater.
Not so much.
Traffic, family and professional obligations, Emory’s distance from an interstate or MARTA rail line — all of these factors significantly affect our alumni’s ability to come back to campus. It’s not that they don’t care about us. Visiting just isn’t always that easy.
So last fall, rather than focus exclusively on bringing Atlanta alumni back to campus, the EAA began reaching beyond the Haygood-Hopkins Gate and meeting alumni closer to their own homes. “Emory Around Town” is a new EAA effort that focuses on neighborhood-based programming. Instead of asking alumni to come to our part of town, the EAA heads out to theirs.
Emory Around Town events have included the “Midtown Mingle” (Nov. 15), “Drinks Downtown” (Jan. 24) and “Meet Me at Marlow’s” (Feb. 7), and each brought together a great group of alumni, many of whom had not previously participated in an Emory program. The first step to connection was taken.
As their names imply, all three of these events had something in common (other than a devotion to alliteration). They had a distinctly social bent. That was by design.
“We wanted to start out with social events, just to see if our efforts were sustainable; would people come out?” said Megan Turk ’02C, assistant director for regional programs and a liaison to the Atlanta chapter.
That’s why the chapter waited until event number three, “Insight Into the 2008 Presidential Primaries,” to put together a content-driven event, as opposed to a simple social gathering. If there were any doubts about whether alumni would be interested, they were erased in two-and-a-half hours. That’s how long it took for “Insight” to reach its 50-person capacity after the registration page was posted to the EAA Web site.
Attendees were treated to a lively panel discussion on Jan. 31 that featured political science professor Alan Abramowitz and two alumni who previously held senior positions in the Clinton and Bush administrations.
Attendance-wise, Emory Around Town has been a tremendous success. More than 270 alumni have attended the first four events, and it has been a diverse crowd. For instance, the average age of attendees for Feb. 7 event in Vinings, the EAA’s first foray outside the perimeter, was 39 years old, and every school has been represented.
Future Emory Around Town plans include events in Buckhead (March 6), a still-in-the-planning-stages evening in Inman Park (scheduled for April) and Friday night jazz at the Georgia Aquarium (May 2) to cap the academic year.