UP’s Alumni Relations Office launches live online events amid COVID-19

Posted on June 10, 2020

Universities across the globe have closed down and run their programmes online because of pandemic.

The University of Pretoria (UP) is the first university in Africa to launch alumni events on LinkedIn Live. LeadUP Online Alumni Events is a series of virtual topical debates and masterclasses initiated by the Alumni Relations Office and hosted on UP’s LinkedIn page. Xolani Mathibela caught up with Samantha Castle, Senior Alumni Relations Manager, to learn more.

UP is the first university in Africa to launch alumni events on LinkedIn Live. Samantha Castle, Senior Alumni Relations Manager, tells us more.

XM: What motivated the decision to take events online?

SC: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, like many institutions and organisations, UP is unable to host physical events where we can connect with one another and share space, which is why the Alumni Relations Office decided to take their events online. These events are hosted live on UP's LinkedIn page so that alumni are still able to engage with their almamater and one another, as well as improve their skills and knowledge. This initiative is testament to the fact that UP is an innovative and leading institution - we are also excited that UP is the first university on the continent to have launched its alumni events on LinkedIn Live.

XM: Tell us about the events that were held recently.

SC: The LeadUP Online Alumni Events kicked off with the first edition of our LeadUP: Young Alumni Chats. This was a masterclass entitled ‘Rocking your LinkedIn Profile’ and is part of a partnership we have with LinkedIn to help our graduates, young alumni and final-year students improve their LinkedIn profile, and so help to make them more marketable as they enter and transition in their careers. Our second online event was the first in the LeadUP: Global Virtual Alumni Chats series, the theme of which was ‘Global Lockdowns, Learning, Thriving… or Just Surviving!’. This exciting discussion saw alumni joining us from New York, Melbourne, Chengdu in China, and London. Judging by the number of views and comments, I think viewers really enjoyed hearing the various perspectives from alumni around the world.

XM: How have alumni responded to the events thus far? 

SC: The response has been amazing. I think what drives them to come back for more is the range of topics, and the experts. We have seen an increase in online alumni engagement and many have expressed their gratitude for these events. We hope to offer many more, and welcome the continuous feedback to help us improve these offerings.

XM: Are these events exclusively for recent UP alumni?

SC: No, not at all. Anyone can be part of the conversation by simply following the relevant event link or following UP’s LinkedIn page. We have designed a range of topics to benefit alumni across various age groups and stages of life. We also welcome alumni to write to us if they would like to participate as panellists.

XM: You recently represented UP at the GLS Connect conference, the largest virtual gathering of Alumni Relations, Career Services and Advancement professionals. Tell us about that.

SC: The GLS conference takes place annually and brings together hundreds of Alumni and Advancement practitioners from around the world. It is organised by Graduway, the designers and creators of our UP Alumni Connect platform. At last year’s conference held in London, we won an award for the fastest-growing alumni app in the world and presented a case study on how we were able to achieve that. At the recent virtual conference, I joined the opening panel discussion with colleagues from the University of Oxford and University College London to discuss how UP celebrated graduation and welcomed our new graduates into the alumni community amid the pandemic.

XM: UP’s Alumni Connect app has reached more than 9 000 alumni – how beneficial is this app to alumni? 

SC: It is a great platform to network on and stay connected with university news and job opportunities. More than 2 000 alumni have indicated their willingness to serve as mentors for students and younger alumni via the platform, and it’s where we post the latest jobs, internships and opportunities to advance the careers of graduates. We encourage all alumni to get connected by signing up at www.upalumniconnect.com or by downloading the app (search for Graduway in Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store).

XM: Which upcoming events can we look forward to?

SC: We have so many exciting online events in the pipeline for alumni. Next up are three events within the LeadUP: Alumni Thought Leadership Series:

  • LeadUP: Alumni Thought Leadership Series 
    Is your business struggling? A discussion on turnaround strategy and business rescue
    Wednesday, 10 June 2020 from 18:00 to 19:00 (SA time)
  • LeadUP Alumni: Thought Leadership Series
    COVID-19: Implications for food security in Africa
    Wednesday, 17 June 2020 from 14:00 to 15:00 (SA time)
  • LeadUP Alumni: Thought Leadership Series 
    Pre- and post-budget debate – Is the COVID-19 economic stimulus plan enough to reconstruct the economy?
    Tuesday, 23 June 2020 at 18:00 (SA time)  
    Thursday, 25 June 2020 at 18:00 (SA time)

Follow the university’s social media pages for updates on upcoming LeadUP Online Alumni Events


- Author Xolani Mathibela

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