I recently set out on a mission to understand Elizabethtown College community members’ opinions on whether alumni benefit or hurt the community at Etown. What are the advantages and what are the drawbacks? Executive Director of College Engagement Opportunities Mark Clapper, an Etown alum himself, shares his thoughts on the matter.
“It’s wonderful to have alumni here,” Clapper said. “Though perhaps I am a little biased, being a graduated student myself, working here.”
During the interview it was evident from Clapper’s enthusiastic remarks how much passion he had for the College.
Many believe this to be a commendable attribute of alumni employees. Clapper fully believes in Etown and the potential it holds for students.
“[Alumni] love Etown, so they want to make a difference because of that love and loyalty,” he said.
What impressed me the most was Clapper’s eagerness and genuine pride in showing me around the alumni house. He introduced me to the other employees present and explained the important purposes each room served. He presented the place with an admirable affection for his job and the community.
“I think if you’re working here, you definitely see the needs [of the College] firsthand,” Clapper said. “From that perspective, it enables you to make difference in whatever way you can. There are things that I do because I’m a graduate, because I believe in certain programs, because I want these students to be successful that I’ll contribute.
“It’s not because it’s my job. As a former student, I want the students who are involved in that same activity or program to have more opportunities than I ever had or to have an experience that’s top notch.”
“[Alumni] bring invested interest to the College that is really unmatched,” English Department Chair Matt Skillen said. “[Their] stories are more authentically told when they share their experience of college with incoming students. They really believe in this place. Our motto is ‘Educate for Service,’ and what higher order of service is there to your alma mater than to come back and work for them?”
Skillen’s words made me reflect back to my first day on campus. I met Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Kyle Kopko, an alum who is the director the College’s Honors Program, and noticed the passionate way in which he expressed his love for his alma mater. His gratuitous efforts to convey his affinity for Etown is obviously shown, for example, in his Wednesday morning breakfasts with honors students.
First-year Brandon Huey considered Kopko’s efforts to reach out to those who now sit in the seats he sat during his enrollment.
“He takes time out of his schedule to sit down and eat with students and learn about what they’re doing and what assignments they have, and then he’ll relate it to something he has done in his experiences,” Huey said.
Apparently, many campus community members agree to the beneficial contributions of alumni employment. However, some say otherwise.
“I see both sides. I think it’s great that there are alumni that are passionate about Etown, and I think they bring that passion to their work,” Professor Tyler Grimm of the English Department said. “But on the other hand, I can see how, as a college, we want to bring in diverse opinions and schools of thought among faculty and staff.”
This introduces a differing opinion regarding the hiring of alumni. Although graduates of the College certainly bring a passion for Etown to their profession, the campus is filled with graduates of other universities that also share a passion for education. These professors can bring a variety of backgrounds in education and environment that may be beneficial to Etown students.
Skillen viewed hiring of alumni as still bringing diversity to campus. “Some might say that colleges who hire their own might create a culture of academic inbreeding of sorts, but I don’t think that’s the case,” Skillen said. “[There’s a] sense of community perpetuated from alums that attracted me here as a professor. I think it means a great deal more and resonates more clearly than other places I’ve worked, and maybe that is from the number of former students that we hire here.”
Some believe hiring alumni may inhibit the diversity of the campus. Overall, though, people seem to acknowledge that alumni who love what they do take a personal interest in the campus community.
“It’s not necessary for you to be an alumnus to have that type of loyalty with the College,” Clapper said, “[though] it certainly enables you to have a very personal connection if you are a graduate.”