Alumni Perspective Building a Vibrant Alumni Network

The Rainier Scholars Strategic Plan focuses on growing our impact and ensuring the program serves scholars, families, and alums. To that end, Strategy 2 of the Plan specifically outlines building and supporting a vibrant alumni network. We recently connected with three Rainier Scholars alumnae who are also some of the staff members leading the charge for this strategy. To learn more about this work, we sat down with Saedah Ham, Donor Relations Associate and an alum of Cohort 4, Yael Tellez-Rodriguez, Family Engagement Manager and an alum of Cohort 6, and May-Lannie Lozano, Associate Director of Academic Counseling and an alum of Cohort 4. 

Describe Strategy 2 of the Rainier Scholars Strategic Plan. 

Yael: The gist of the strategy is to activate our alumni network. There are about 350 alums around the world, and we hope to prioritize this group, so that we can build the Rainier Scholars community and contribute to the leaders we are creating today. 

Saedah: In addition to connecting with our alumni community, we’re also coming up with ways they can give back to Rainier Scholars. We’ve been hearing in our focus groups that alums want to give back, but they don’t know how or who to reach out to.

What are you most excited about in leading this effort? 

Saedah: I’m excited to connect with other alums that I haven’t seen in a long time. I also hope that our plan for Strategy 2 creates a good foundation for all the great things we can do with alums in the future. 

Yael: I’m really excited about including the alumni voice in the programming and strategies we’re building by asking for their feedback, perspective and insight. I’m also interested in making the alumni community more enduring. I hope Rainier Scholars is around for years to come, and we need to be the leaders in ensuring that happens. 

May-Lannie: Seeing other alums back with Rainier Scholars and observing how they give back, pulling from their experience from the old days and from their current careers, is so valuable to our students. It’s exciting to show that these alums are on the other end of what our current scholars are doing right now. 

What are the challenges you see in executing Strategy 2, and expanding alumni support & engagement? 

Yael: One challenge is reaching out to the earlier cohorts who didn’t have as much engagement post-college. How do we bring back and engage alums who have grown up without a specific alumni connection? They’re still part of our community and our history. 

Saedah: On top of all the strategizing, there has to be someone to execute the plan and ensure it’s managed smoothly so that there’s a reason and purpose behind why we’re reaching out to alums. 

May-Lannie: We have a lot we want to do, and figuring out who can do what so the experience is more streamlined is challenging. We’ve maxed out on capacity, but so many people are willing to help. It’s so much harder when there’s no dedicated person for alum. 

Yael: There needs to be somebody directly in charge of alumni relations. That will be one of our strongest suggestions, not just because we think so but because it’s been requested by alums at every single focus group we’ve hosted. 

How is the team approaching the task of building an engaging alumni network? 

May-Lannie: The first thing we did was ensure everyone we could hear from was given the opportunity to connect. We’ve reached out to alumni through social media posts, invitations to focus groups, and surveys. There’s also been direct outreach. 

Saedah: We wanted to provide different ways for people to give feedback. So, if they don’t feel comfortable voicing their opinion in person, they can fill out the survey. 

Yael: So far, we’re about halfway through our focus group sessions. After that, we’ll go back to the drawing board to see what we can execute this year and make recommendations. 

What kind of feedback have you received from alumni so far? 

May-Lannie: They like to hear about opportunities to give back and how to do that, being aware of events where they can plug in. They’re also interested in hearing about additional career or grad school support. 

Yael: The other thing I’ve heard often is that Rainier Scholars has played a significant role in the trajectory of their lives. Rainier Scholars helped plant that seed of seeing options further than what they knew in their family. That is something that I also really connect to. I don’t know where I’d be without Rainier Scholars. Alumni want to be able to speak about Rainier Scholars and share all of the good, the mission and the work. And we have also heard about ways Rainier Scholars can grow and be better. 

Alumni still have the opportunity to provide feedback on their Rainier Scholar experience and hopes for a vibrant alumni community in the following two ways: 

  • Complete the Alumni Survey through April 30th 
  • Attend a virtual focus group session on May 8th via Zoom – RSVP Here! 

Alumni can also stay engaged by joining the Rainier Scholars LinkedIn Network, and by adding “Rainier Scholars” as a school on their LinkedIn profiles. 

Contact Sara Jackson at  if you have any questions and want to learn more.