Choose Your Own Alumni Adventure: 8 Elements that Make Up a Life
Journey maps are a well know tool in customer experience design, but what happens when the journey lasts a lifetime?
I came across a fascinating answer to this question only this week by Cooper Professional Education and, of course, it got me thinking back to the Lifecycle of School Engagement that has formed the basis for so much of our work on institutional Advancement over the years.
But here's the thing.
It is one thing to visualise the relatively uniform terrain of life at school. It is quite another to apply the same principles of cartography to what comes next.
The problem is that there are just too many variables, too many assumptions, and life beyond school just has this habit of surprising us; taking us along previously undiscovered routes and, every now and again, into the occasional cul-de-sac.
So what if we took the same principles of customer experience design and visualised the Alumni Adventure in a slightly different way. Not as a predetermined map with set milestones and waypoints, but as an individual odyssey in which the hero-protagonist (the Alumnus) is constantly writing her future by combining a set of universal story Elements.
In other words, let's imagine that on Graduation Day, we offer each one of our students a backpack containing 8 Elements that they carry with them on their journey.
And let's imagine that these Elements can be "played" in endless combinations at different moments in time; that some Elements will be used time and again, some hardly at all; that each Element is somehow rooted in what we are all really looking for from our alma mater.
Back in the office this week, I sat with a colleague and we tried to work out what these Elements might be.*
Here's what we came up with.
And I'm thinking it might just be the beginning of an Alumni Manifesto.
We wear the shirt with pride. We feel a sense of allegiance to this place, this team, these people, and that moment in time. We know where we fit in and the story that we are a part of. We know where home is.
We stop to savour the good times, building resilience for when things get tough. We take time out to meet up and mark the milestones. We punctuate and italicise our lives by laughing together often, telling stories, raising our glasses and always remembering.
We stay in contact with one another. Wherever we are in the world and however long it has been since we stepped on campus, there is a red thread that connects us to one another and leads us back to where our story began.
We look to one another for advice. When there is a fork in the road, we don't always know which way to go. We make mistakes and sometimes get lost. So we become travelling companions and mentors, always learning from one another along life's path.
We look back on the "good old days" and smile. We treasure these memories for a lifetime. They fill us with joy. And even if we know that we aren't so young any more, when we walk back onto Campus we feel like superheroes who have turned back the hands of time.
We believe that every one of us can make a difference, however our lives turn out. We remember what others gave us and try to follow their example. We volunteer. We share wisdom. We give. Not because we owe anyone anything, but because generosity and open-handedness is a noble way of living.
We are thankful for every moment we shared, every friend we made, every teacher who stood alongside us. We are thankful to our parents for the opportunity they provided to us. We are thankful for the gift of our childhood and the impact of our school on the rest of our lives.
We all want to leave something behind when our story ends. We want to know that we've made a mark and made a difference. Some of us will play an important part in the future story of our school. Our story will live on in the experience of those who come after us.
*Thanks to Suzette Parlevliet who spent several hours with me searching for the 8 words that would capture the essence of the Alumni Adventure.