Penn State Smeal Alumni Society Board strives to build connections

By Andy Elder
September 16, 2016

The mission of the Penn State Smeal College of Business Alumni Society Board is to cultivate a “community of active, engaged alumni.” With more than 77,000 alumni, that’s no small task.

To make the challenge more manageable, the 25 elected at-large directors help develop and execute initiatives to harness the talents of alumni interested in giving back to the college. The numerous ways to get involved can be found online.

“Smeal alumni are passionate about sharing their professional experiences and talents,” said Jim Brandau, a 2003 finance graduate and the Alumni Society Board president. “We’re working to build new connections between students, faculty, and other alumni. We have a wealth of knowledge to tap into.”

In 2012, the board developed an event called Impact Smeal Day, which is an opportunity for alumni to come to campus and interact with the college community. Sessions allow alumni to hear from Smeal faculty and staff, interact with students, and network with other alumni. Since its inception, the twice-annual Impact Smeal Day has hosted more than 450 alumni attendees, and allowed more than 1,000 students the opportunity to learn from these alumni.  

During Impact Smeal Day, alumni can also attend a “Task Force Session.” The board has established five task forces to address a set of challenges and goals, and seek alumni input to achieve these goals. Task forces are led by two board members. They meet in person twice a year on the fall and spring Impact Smeal Days, but continue making progress on their initiatives year-round. The task forces include:

Affiliate Program Groups

Also known as regional alumni clubs, this task force creates a forum for discussion and idea sharing among clubs in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Each club hosts quarterly events that allow Smeal and Penn State alumni to network with each other in their respective communities. In total, approximately 600 alumni attended a regional club event in 2015.

This task force helps identify alumni leaders for regional groups, and develops strategies for clubs in the areas of: event sponsorship, executive team succession planning, event themes, community partnerships, and marketing of events.


This group helps to govern and grow one-to-one mentoring relationships between Smeal alumni and current Smeal students. In 2009, the Mentoring Program began with just a handful of board members mentoring approximately 20 students. The program now serves more than 1,000 alumni and students. This year, the program has more than 340 pairs.

The task force is working to maintain a quality foundation and exploring ways to make improvements. It is also evaluating how to best promote the value of the program to students and alumni.

Alumni Engagement

Working with the Alumni Relations Office at Smeal, this task force assists with identifying alumni volunteers for existing initiatives and events and often helps develop ideas for new alumni engagement opportunities.

The group is currently working on a plan to improve and grow the Alumni Adviser Program, which encourages interaction between alumni and Smeal’s more than 40 student organizations. In the last five years, approximately 15 different student organizations have benefited from having an alumni adviser.

Student Engagement

This task force helps identify key initiatives for student and alumni interaction. The goal is to expose students to Smeal Alumni Relations so that they become active, engaged alumni upon graduation. They also work with various student marketing groups to brainstorm ways to better promote alumni events to students.

One new initiative is working with change-of-location students and key faculty/staff to find opportunities for alumni to help these students make a successful transition to University Park. Through collaboration with the Career & Corporate Connections Office and the Mentoring and Student Engagement Task Forces, more than 100 change-of-location students are participating in the Mentoring Program this year.


The newest task force to be created, this group is focusing on identifying ways to promote the Alumni Society Board’s mission, as well as finding ways to assist with the promotion of Smeal news to alumni.

“Smeal has a great brand story to tell. We have begun to tell this story through a variety of communications vehicles including social media, blogs, press releases, and even through innovative knowledge forums,” said Timmy Garde, an Alumni Society Board member.

“Getting our messages out and reinforcing our success stories not only benefits student prospects but also the more than 77,000 Smeal alumni, as well as faculty, industry, and the community at large.”

Brandau said there’s always something the board or one of its affiliated groups needs help with. And, he stressed, it’s enjoyable.

“Our board is a fun group. We’re laid back, and try to do innovative things,” he said. “We’ve developed new friendships over the years and view our terrific volunteer base as a pipeline for future board members. We want to use those relationships to continue engaging our alumni community and, as a result, make a positive impact on Smeal.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 16, 2016