Date of Graduation

8-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology

Advisor

Leslie Edgar

Committee Member

Donna Graham

Second Committee Member

K. Rucker

Third Committee Member

Tammy Tucker

Keywords

Agricultural Communications, Alumni Relations, Bumpers College, Communications, Land-grant, Millennial Alumni

Abstract

Alumni relationship cultivation serves as the foundation of higher education and must be maintained to keep graduates and alma maters connected. To evaluate the success of communications media in reaching recent graduates, classified as Millennials, this study sought to determine Millennial alumni perceptions of media distributed by the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences (Bumpers College) from 2012 through 2014. Assessed communications media included The Graduate and AR Culture magazines, The Graduate e-newsletter, tailgate and mocktail party invitations, College website, and social media presences. Active and inactive Millennial alumni (N = 20) responses were gathered through telephone interviews, and a qualitative analysis was used to identify emergent themes from participant responses and preferences for communications and giving.

After an analysis of alumni responses, researchers identified Building the Professional and Interest in Giving Back as emergent themes related to respondents' connection to Bumpers College. Reviewing each of the seven media used in the assessment, five additional themes emerged including Message Relationship/Consumption, Specialized Content, Communications Medium/Channel, Message Barriers, and Need for Branding/Promotion. Alumni valued The Graduate magazine for its professional quality and personal features (Class Notes and Family Album), but found its theme-based structure and impersonal stories to be weaknesses. In contrast, participants liked the student-focused approach to the AR Culture magazine but believed its quality could be improved. Participants valued the convenience of the e-newsletter, but noted a need to refine its messaging and restructure the email to increase engagement. Alumni favorably received the tailgate event invitation, but stressed reducing the invitation's content. On the other hand, the mocktail party invitation was too vague for participants to identify the event's purpose. The Bumpers College's website was viewed as user-friendly; however, alumni content was minimal. Last, most participants were unaware that Bumpers College had any social media presences and emphasized increasing engagement through promotion or two-way communication online.

While findings revealed that the Bumpers College made an impression on participants while they were students, it is recommended that media be adapted to better meet Millennial alumni preferences and, perhaps, assist them in moving from inactive alumni to active.