According to the 2016 edition of Education at a Glance, the number of international students worldwide has grown tremendously over the past decades with around 5 times as many international students as there were in the 1970’s. The U.K., Canada, Australia and France are increasingly popular destinations for international students, but the U.S. still hosts the most international students.
Although there is an increasing number of international students worldwide, international alumni engagement is a relatively new initiative for higher education. As schools’ alumni populations become more diverse and widespread, the potential these alumni hold shouldn’t go untapped.
Why Track International Alumni?
A better question may be – why not track and engage these alumni? These alumni are the liaison between two cultures and have the ability to aid their alma mater in many ways:
Global Interaction – International alumni help their alma maters by creating a cross-cultural experience on campus, and in a world where global knowledge is valued, the ability to create these experiences is fundamental.
Recruitment – They are the best word of mouth advertisement since they have the ability to translate different aspects of their campus experience to potential students abroad.
Potential Donors – Overseas alumni have wealth potential. If graduates originating from abroad have the means to study far from home, they will likely have the resources to become potential donors.
Career Mentors – These alumni will be able to help other students and alumni with overseas employment markets.
Regional Ambassadors & Volunteers – Your international alumni can help keep school affinity strong by becoming local ambassadors for alumni events and other regional alumni initiatives.
We took a look at U.S. New’s 2018 list of U.S. universities with the most international students. At least 15% of their student body is from overseas, meaning, there is a lot of international alumni potential to be harnessed. Here are some interesting ways they are recognizing and engaging their international alumni:
Outstanding International Alumni
Emory University’s Sheth award brings attention and recognition to their distinguished international alumni. They look amongst their international alumni to find individuals who have excelled in ‘business, profession, or life’s work and who have made outstanding contributions to humanity, science, art, or human welfare.’ 2017’s winner, Kwadwo Sarpong, co-founded African Research Academies for Women, a nonprofit research program dedicated to helping African woman interested in STEM careers.
Stories Shared Across the Globe
On Columbia university’s international alumni page, you can find an impressive list of their over 100 alumni clubs worldwide and a list of each regional ambassador. Even more engaging is a small section called, ColumbiaYou. They call upon their alumni to share their personal stories about the university. A great way to bring a global consciousness to some of the school’s most notable stories.
A Day for Community Service
Your international alumni are your institution’s physical presence worldwide – especially when it comes to volunteering. Many schools have called upon international alumni to make a change for the good with a ‘Global Day of Service’ and New York University is amongst them. On April 28th they will have alumni volunteering in 30 events around the world to make a positive impact on their respective communities. By inviting alumni to this worldwide event, they are creating unity amongst all their alumni without even having to travel.
Although many of the larger more international colleges and universities are beginning to take interest in their international community, it isn’t necessarily a priority for many higher education institutions. There seems to be a common belief that tracking and working with these alumni is a complex and expensive task. In reality, thanks to digital globalization and the flow of data and information, tracking international alumni isn’t much different than tracking local alumni – as long as you have the right tools. So for those who receive even a small number of international students, staying connected with these alumni is definitely worth the effort.
Sources & Additional Reading
 The Great Game for International Students, Usnews.com
 International Alumni Affairs: An Overview, Insidehighered.com
 Most International Students, Usnews.com
 Sheth Distinguished International Alumni Award, Global.emory.edu
 International Clubs, Alumni.columbia.edu
 ColumbiaYou, You.columbia.edu
 NYU Alumni Global Day of Service, Alumni.nyu.edu