Whitman College: Turning to Digital Books to Complement 50th Class Reunions

August 2023 — By BrightCrowd

Many people look back at their time in college and remember nothing but fond memories. Whether it’s due to expanding their intellectual horizons, partaking in once-in-a-lifetime experiences, or creating friendships that serve as a close-knit support system, college is often considered the best four years of one’s life. But what happens once students leave their higher education institutions behind and embark on the next chapter of their life? Do they maintain the strong connections they once established with their peers or remain actively engaged with their school and its associated network?

Colleges and universities continue to include traditional alumni reunions in their alumni engagement strategy. Although attendance levels decline after a class’s 15-year reunion, many schools see a substantial turnaround at the 25-year mark. However, some schools strive to keep the momentum of their alumni events going well beyond this milestone – they look forward to engaging with their former students at their 50th class reunion especially.

Whitman College’s Commitment to 50th Class Reunions

Located in Walla Walla, Washington, Whitman College is a small, private liberal arts school with an undergraduate enrollment of 1,559 students. Committed to hosting in-person celebrations to increase alumni engagement, the school prides itself on its 50th class reunions. However, it’s important to note that successfully attracting individuals to the event and organizing the many different moving parts can be challenging – the college went on the hunt to find an easy way to help garner excitement for in-person attendance at their alumni reunions, despite the recent adoption of virtual and hybrid gatherings.

So, what did Whitman College do to complement its traditional alumni engagement strategy? It added the use of BrightCrowd’s digital books to its arsenal. Not only were these digital books an excellent way to help the school interact with its alumni, but they helped reignite old connections between fellow graduates. Due to the simplicity of the book’s setup and its user-friendly interface, the school was able to create the digital book quickly and easily.

The 50th class reunion books consisted of various questions and prompts to help guide alumni into providing the most relevant and authentic updates – the school included standard questions supplied by BrightCrowd and some custom ones to create a more personalized feel. Some of the topics in the book included:

  • Is there an interesting/fun/crazy fact about you that your classmates might not know?
  • What important lesson have you learned in the last five decades?
  • Describe how your time at Whitman impacted or influenced the rest of your life.

Accessible only to the book’s organizers and invited alumni, individuals have a safe space to include information about themselves they might not have otherwise shared. Alumni were also able to get a sneak preview of who they could expect to interact with at their upcoming alumni event.

A Look at BrightCrowd’s Success

Out with the old, in with the new “reunion book.” This statement stands the test of time, especially when creating an effective alumni engagement strategy in a world where everything is slowly digitizing. Many schools, such as Whitman College, have relied on outdated, traditional engagement methods – BrightCrowd’s digital books provide an alternative to printed yearbooks that take valuable time and resources to create, print, and distribute.

But how successful were digital books in capturing alumni engagement and furthering the school’s overall initiatives? The following data was from the school’s Class of 1972 and Class of 1973:

  • The participation rate for the Class of 1972 was 98%
  • The Class of 1973 has an engagement level of 72% despite having only recently launched
  • Alumni immediately began filling out their pages after receiving their invitations

Individuals welcomed the school’s new alumni engagement efforts and took the time to ensure they would get the most out of their 50th class reunion.

BrightCrowd’s services are advantageous for any school, regardless of size, that’s looking to increase alumni participation. Contact us today to learn more about using digital books at your next alumni event.