Betting on a Boomerang

WAA and partners are paving the way for alums to return

“Bring ’em back to Bucky.” Ultimately that’s Paula Bonner’s goal. And the president and CEO of the Wisconsin Alumni Association is looking to innovative partnerships to reach UW alums around the world and encourage them to return to Wisconsin to live and work. Bonner has a hunch that once invited, they will.

“I feel like I hear from more schools, colleges and departments and from alumni themselves” about reconnecting grads to their alma mater and their state. “I think the interest of the alumni in the university, and the university in its alumni, has never been more sought and seen as a strategic asset,” says Bonner. That interest is multi-dimensional with alumni serving as ambassadors for the university and the state as well as “translating the Wisconsin Idea around the world.” Bonner says, “People more and more realize the importance of keeping that Idea alive. And alums have realized that entrepreneurially this is a great resource.”

Bonner credits Competitive Wisconsin for asking the WAA and Thrive to partner with them on the pilot project, Badger Career Network Alerts. Funded in part by a $25,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, the partners surveyed more than 22,000 alumni in the five primary metropolitan markets where UW grads go when they leave Wisconsin. Nearly sixty percent said they would consider moving back to Wisconsin to further their careers.

The partners, and others like Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation managing director Carl Gulbrandson, see the great benefit in helping homesick alums return. They are potentially “great resources for the state,” says Bonner. “Our alumni and their voices, and what they see and hear, that information is vitally important to keep the university relevant and connected to the real world.”

Bonner hopes to move the pilot to a full launch later this year.

Neil Heinen is editorial director of Madison Magazine.

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