Mercer University alumni now have a whole new way to stay engaged with the University and connect with their fellow Bears. The new Alumni Affinity Groups program from the University’s Office of Alumni Services creates a platform for like-minded Mercerians to come together.
Until now, the Office of Alumni Services has offered two primary ways for alumni to stay active. Since the 1980s, alumni associations organized by school and college have provided a way for Bears to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings. The current Chapter Programs, started in 2014, group alumni by geographic location. Mercer currently has 49 chapters.
The Affinity Groups initiative, spearheaded by Alumni Services Program Coordinator Ceallsach Crouch, takes alumni interaction to a new level by organizing groups based on interests, goals and identity. Affinity Groups can be based on an alumni’s student experience or interests that have developed in post-college life.
“These groups are based on a common element that isn’t based on geography or limited to school. It is really based upon something the alumni can connect to that made them love Mercer University,” she said.
“I think the most beneficial part of this is not only does it emphasize Mercer’s goals of community and togetherness, but it also focuses on the people who didn’t make connections based on class year or hometown but wish to connect with other Mercerians who have similar interests.”
Through Mercer Alumni Affinity Groups, Mercerians can build communities and interpersonal relationships based on collective experiences and interests; raise awareness of the needs and goals of campus groups; and continue to embody Mercer’s mission through work and engagement in their communities.
“Mercer has such an emphasis on community, reaching out, helping your fellow Bear, and, beyond that, helping your community in different new and exploratory ways,” Crouch said. “I think this is another way we can all come together and enjoy and appreciate.”
Affinity Groups are volunteer-led, and alumni are invited to establish groups that meet their own unique interests. Bears are encouraged to review the information online and fill out the interest form. The Office of Alumni Services will review the submitted forms and work with alumni to forge an action plan and create an online space for the group. Established groups will be listed online with details on how other alumni can join.
“Though we guide them through the foundational aspect of creating the group, the alumni are the ones who are really building these groups and connections,” Crouch said. “That is what makes it so special. It is a large undertaking, but it is worth it.”
One Mercer Affinity Group was formed long before this new initiative. The African American Alumni Network was established in 2008 and held its first gathering during Homecoming of that year.
“They are, without a doubt, one of the biggest inspirations for this Affinity Groups Program,” Crouch said. “They are a wonderful, passionate group of alumni who came together and celebrated what connected them to Mercer.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges, but this is the perfect time for alumni to start setting up online groups, building foundations and meeting virtually with people who have similar goals. Crouch hopes Alumni Affinity Groups will be able to come together during Homecoming 2021 festivities.