"Our alumni club has a lot to offer its members"

26 August 2013

Once they have acquired a degree, new horizons open up for graduates. New tasks await, perhaps somewhere far away. It is all too easy to lose contact with your former fellow students. Alumni Mainz e.V. at the Faculty of Law, Management and Economics helps make sure this does not happen. The purpose of the alumni club is to enable erstwhile students of Mainz University to stay in contact. It already has 390 members – and chairman Stefan Irnich is ready to welcome many more.

They live in Berlin and Buenos Aires, in Selters and San Salvador, in Landau and London – in fact, graduates of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) are spread all around the globe. They may now work as managers of commercial enterprises, in law firms, or for the European Parliament but they all have one thing in common: they once studied at the Faculty of Law, Management and Economics of Mainz University.

"It would be a great pity if all these people lost touch with each other," says Professor Stefan Irnich. "So our alumni club is there to try to stop this happening." This summer the business management expert with specialization in logistics management was appointed to head up Alumni Mainz e.V., one of the most active clubs on campus when it comes to maintaining a network of graduates, former students, and their supporters.

Keeping in touch with former classmates

Irnich came to Mainz University four years ago. Right now he is sitting in his office in the Economics and Law building. The walls are covered with pictures of his family and paintings by his children in crayon and colored pencils. "I'm afraid it's not very tidy in here at the moment," apologizes the professor, pointing to several piles of papers. He then begins to explain why he got involved with Alumni Mainz.

"I studied in Aachen. In my time, there wasn't even a graduation ceremony when you got your degree. I just went to the office and picked up my certificate. Back then, universities did not have a central organization whose job it was to help graduates stay in touch. Aachen then had a Friends and Supporters Club but the membership fees were high and it focused primarily on fund raising. So I wondered why I should bother to join. What exactly could the club offer me?"

Irnich has since lost contact with many of his former classmates over the years. "However, I had a great time as a student and I really would like to know what happened to my fellow students, where they went, and what they're doing now."

Alumni Mainz e. V. was founded in 1998. The club focuses on precisely what Irnich thought was missing when he graduated. "We promote alumni networking, we get involved in the graduation ceremony and more," explains Irnich. "We also try to keep our membership fees as low as possible." The fee is EUR 25, but graduates can join free of charge for the first year.

Yearbook as link and opportunity

Despite this, the number of club members remained small for a long time. The club struggled to survive with less than a hundred members. However, things changed when Professor Franz Rothlauf was put in charge in 2010. "He systematically made sure that we appealed to all of our graduates." Those who registered for their final exams automatically received information about the club together with a registration form.

There are also other things that the Alumni Mainz club offers students. They can, for example, be profiled in the faculty yearbook free of charge. "We even produce a special edition that we send out to our partners in the worlds of law and business. Graduates can use this to state the grades they have achieved and explain to prospective employers what their career concepts are."

The partners mentioned are organizations and companies with which the faculty has already had various forms of contact. "Of course, we don't send the information to just anyone who could then perhaps use it for their profit." However, graduates can employ the yearbook for their own benefit, as it may represent their passport to a job with a company such as Deutsche Post, KPMG, or Boehringer Ingelheim. "Our yearbook is a very attractive resource for such companies."

The club also produces information in its annual report which enables alumni to get in touch and maintain contact with one another. "And last year we started the lecture series 'Business meets Alumni Mainz'," continues Irnich. This year, members of the Towers Watson global professional  services company provided valuable answers to students' practical queries about possible future careers. They wanted to know things like what they could expect as a starting salary and whether a Bachelor's degree would be enough or whether it would be better to obtain a Master’s degree. And also whether women really have equal opportunities with men in the sector.

The club intends to become more widely known

The club now has 390 members. They all regularly receive a newsletter, the yearbook, the annual report, and much more. "It has become a lot of work for us," says Irnich, leafing through the yearbook. It has 132 pages. They need to be filled.

Despite the effort, he and his helpers are tinkering with ideas that will help the club move forward. "Among economics graduates, there is already a certain tradition of alumni contact but it is a very different story in the case of our law students. But we definitely want to change that."

In addition, Irnich would love to hear from people who studied at JGU and who lost touch long ago with their university and their former fellow students. "It's very difficult for us to reach these, of course. So we are thrilled whenever one actually does contact us."

Irnich is appreciative of any form of support and attention – such as that he is now receiving from the university administration, which is starting to focus more on the subject of JGU alumni. The chairman of Alumni Mainz e.V. states with conviction: "Our alumni club has a lot to offer its members." And he will make sure that more people are made aware of this.