How do you engage a diverse community of 500,000 alumni with the life and mission of the University of Toronto? That’s the question facing Barbara Dick (BA 1987 UC), who in July took over as assistant vice-president of alumni relations.
Because alumni recognize the ongoing importance of education, Dick believes that U of T should make it easy for grads to take advantage of new learning opportunities, career assistance and to build upon the richness of their university experience throughout their lives.
“My vision is to create the most loyal, engaged, supportive alumni group in the world,” says Dick, who previously served as U of T’s executive director of alumni affairs. “But we’ll only win the hearts and minds of our alumni by adding real value to their lives through meaningful programs of the highest quality.”
In particular, Dick wants to offer alumni ongoing access to the U of T academic experience – by having professors deliver talks about their area of expertise to alumni groups, for example, and making videos of interesting lectures available online.
“In the midst of a city that offers the best of everything, the University of Toronto’s unique offering is our intellectual capital,” she says. “Our alumni can share in the excitement of our discoveries and benefit from lifelong learning opportunities on our campuses, and more remotely through the web and through regional programs.”
The goals are challenging, but Dick is no stranger to challenges. She led the recent revitalization of Spring Reunion that has seen an unprecedented number of alumni return to campus, expanded the regional alumni network to 33 countries and oversaw the relaunch of the alumni website with its compelling video portraits of prominent graduates.
Dick’s own story highlights the immense power of education to change lives; like so many U of T grads she is the child of new Canadians. In her new role, she considers it extremely important to tell these stories. “We want to inspire our alumni to have pride in and awareness of the impact they and their fellow alumni make in Canada and around the world. If we tell that story in a compelling way, it will benefit both the university and the alumni.”