Virtual Gatherings

Alumni connect through virtual events


by Matthew Clark

With physical distancing requirements having eliminated many in-person events, Newman University Advancement is doing everything it can to ensure that Newman alumni are able to communicate and interact with their fellow graduates. 

While an invention of necessity, online alumni events are managing to make some connections that haven’t happened in the past.

“When stay-at-home orders started in March, it became apparent that we could not have in-person events,” explained Director of Alumni and Campus Events Laura Hartley. “I started looking at virtual events pretty quickly because I saw other groups doing it and it sort of snowballed from there. We did five virtual events during the summer with more to come in the fall — and the great thing about them is that we’re connecting with alumni that aren’t in Wichita.”

As opposed to the typical feasting and fellowship that alumni would otherwise be presented with, University Advancement has been coming up with a variety of activities that can be done online, such as trivia games and praying the Rosary together.

“We did a bingo event in place of Breakfast & Bingo and that was probably our most-attended event. We probably had 40 people on the Zoom call, and I think we had attendees from four or five states. We’ve done two game show nights on Facebook Live, a spin on Family Feud and Jeopardy, and those usually have a couple hundred views.”

In addition to fun games and gathering together to pray, a virtual platform allows alumni to continue their discussion of literature post-graduation with a new monthly alumni book club.

Hartley explained that, while technology can be challenging and people miss out on the spontaneity of in-person interactions, online events are rather cost-effective.

Even when physical restrictions are removed, Hartley believes that the virtual programs may be a great way of keeping distant alumni connected. In the future, some of the virtual activities will continue.

“I think we will continue doing some of these specialized things with an online component. Especially because, like (with) the book club, we have a woman in Texas who’s joining us. She wouldn’t be able to do that if I only offered it to people here in town. So, I think with that sort of thing, we will continue to (have events) online.”

She also believes that hybrid virtual and physical events may have a promising future.

“We are looking forward to moving our alumni awards and fundraising events back to in-person. But we have realized that we were really missing an opportunity to have a virtual component to those events. We are hoping to find ways to incorporate the hybrid style into future events.”