No school without alumni, no alumni without a school

 Vlerick Alumni was founded in 1958. In recent times, the Association and the School had already coordinated their communications, but still used different house styles and communication channels. Vlerick’s rebranding was an ideal opportunity for the Association to reassess and align its brand to that of the School. In future, they will both use the same logo and house style and will have an integrated website. Dirk Bontridder, Chair of Vlerick Alumni’s Board, and Martine Dykmans, General Manager, take stock and look ahead.

Martine DykmansThe alumni association is an active platform for professional networking and lifelong learning, supporting the School in its continuous development quest. So what does this entail? Dirk: “We organise events where alumni meet and share views on topical subjects, related to the different management fields our alumni are active in. We’ve also developed the Vlerick Award, one of Belgium’s most prestigious business awards.”

And there’s more, says Martine: “Alumni also act as mentors to current students and support them in their search for in-company projects or employment.”

Ambassadors of the School

Vlerick Alumni has always ensured that its activities closely reflected the School’s strategy and ambitions. The international chapters are a good example. Dirk: “Just as we aligned our events with the activities and expertise of the Competence Centres, we’ll now tie them in with the industry sectors on which the School wants to focus. Did you know that we organise over 70 activities a year, each attracting at least 70 alumni and other guests?”

Martine Dykmans and Dirk Bontridder are proud to be Vlerick alumni. “We are all ambassadors of the School in everything we do,” says Martine. “In that sense, we’re the most active marketing tool you could imagine. There are 17,000 alumni worldwide, 2,500 of whom either work or live abroad.”

Untapped potential

In view of Vlerick’s increasing internationalisation, she sees our international alumni as a huge source of untapped potential. “One of the challenges for the future is to get even more alumni involved. We now have chapters in countries where we have a critical mass, but our alumni are spread all over the world. Although there are only one or two in some countries, they too are valuable ambassadors of the School.”

Dirk BonridderAnd that’s not the only challenge. A new generation of graduates are joining the alumni network and this has positive consequences, as Dirk explains: “These children of the digital age probably prefer online content and would rather meet one another on the web than attend live events.” Martine agrees: “We won’t reach this growing and increasingly international group of alumni through traditional channels.”

That’s why they both have high hopes for the new integrated website and are keen to make good use of it. It should become an online platform where all alumni can get in touch with one another. The plan is also to provide thought-provoking content and to develop, for example, live streaming of alumni events and interesting debates.

Going forward

For Dirk Bontridder, this online presence is only the first step. “Going forward, I’d love to see us develop a tablet application. For example, while I’m enjoying my breakfast, this app might say, ‘Good morning, Dirk. These articles may be of interest to you’ or ‘Check out the latest about your fellow alumni’. Basically, an application that provides daily news and updates, in real time.”

While getting generation Y on board may present new challenges, the current alumni membership actually spans generations. “I don’t like to put alumni into categories, but I can broadly see three alumni groups with different needs. And we have to cater to all of them,” he says. “The most senior have grown up with pen and paper. They still value magazines and the annual members’ directory. They’ll go online, but only to access their mail. And then there’s my generation. We also grew up with pen and paper, but we’re early adopters. We’ll use what’s offered, but usually you won’t find us too active on blogs and Twitter yet.” He pauses before adding: “And then there’s generation Y, and they do things differently. For the current members, the directory and the web will do. But it’s our duty and obligation to adapt to the future generation and to educate our members so that we keep everyone on board.”

Martine adds in conclusion: “We have a fantastic group of enthusiastic and dedicated members who do their very best for the Association and the School. And we’d love to see this group growing!”

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