In a few weeks, hundreds of Harding seniors will cross the stage of the Benson Auditorium and step from undergraduate to graduate life. This transition comes with new terrain, but according to Liz Howell, vice president of alumni and parent relations, the Harding community remains constant.
Howell has worked with Harding alumni since 1999 and said her office works to provide connections for alumni across various cities through social media, mentorship, receptions and other events.
“The mission statement is to inform people of things that are going on at Harding, of opportunities to get involved, of opportunities to connect, and most importantly to find a church home, and to find a job,” Howell said. “Part of our strategic plan is connecting alumni with graduates to help them transition from being a Harding student to a Harding graduate and to a successful Christian servant in the world.”
May 2014 alumna Sarah Pope served as director of Generation HU until June 2017, a program which connects alumni of the past 10 years to Harding’s broader alumni network. Pope entered Harding as a freshman in fall 2011 and said that though she graduated after only three years, she prioritized campus involvement during her abbreviated Harding career. Pope said her undergraduate involvement set the pace for her later work as an alumni liaison.
“When you go out and get involved in the community when you’re in college I think it really pushes you out of your box, and it helps you to do that same thing after you graduate,” Pope said.
When Pope took on the position of Generation HU director, she said there was no specific agenda for the program besides immediately engaging young alumni in the Harding community that exists outside the boundaries of the campus.
Pope said that in her time as director, she organized baseball games, dinners and other events to give recent graduates a space to create and maintain relationships with other alumni.
In addition to these events, Pope also created the Barnabas Project, an alumni mentorship initiative which connects recent graduates to more experienced alumni for professional and spiritual growth.
Now, Pope lives and works in Huntsville, Alabama, and experiences alumni life from the other side. Though her orientation has switched, Pope said she still sees the need for community, and especially sees the need to give back to the campus through outreach and recruitment.
“Since I was in the fundraising office, I see what Harding needs and what’s really important for it,” Pope said. “I would say giving back as a whole in many different ways is one of the most important things for me.”
While Pope and Howell both discussed the need to support Harding monetarily, both stressed the ways in which Harding continues to give to students once they have graduated.
“I always tell people being part of the Harding family is such a blessing because there are deep roots here,” Howell said. “When people return for homecoming and Spring Sing they receive the memories, but every time, they say it’s the friendships — because they are rooted in Christ — that make the difference. I’m talking lifelong friends from the moment they left campus.”
Howell and Pope both stressed the importance of remaining open to relationships and communication with Harding after graduating, particularly online.
To learn more about how to stay connected to Harding as an alum, follow @HardingAlumni on Twitter and request approval to join the Harding University Alumni group on Facebook.