From infants enrolled into the Born to Be a Wildcat program by their parents to K-State graduates in their 90s, the Kansas State Alumni Association serves and provides programs for a wide range of people with various interests and reasons for involvement, said Linda Cook, assistant vice president of communications.
With 82 K-State Alumni Association clubs in the U.S. and 18 international clubs, there are ways for young children, teenagers, college students and K-State graduates and non-graduates alike to get connected, Cook said.
“There are all these different programs and services to get at that number one goal of providing that link back to K-State,” Cook said. “It’s always about the link back to K-State.”
Kim Dahlsten, associate director of membership, said the association looks at how many events they hold each year and how many people are a part of them to find out how they can encourage involvement.
According to the K-State Alumni Association’s 2016 Annual Report, 110,403 people participated in 976 events last year.
Cook said they usually have around 1,000 events each year, and the number of yearly participants does not fall below 100,000.
There are currently 183,481 living K-State graduates, and the Alumni Association has 41,620 members as of the end of March 2017, Cook said.
Based on these statistics, Cook said K-State is ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 Conference in percentage of graduates who are involved with their school’s alumni association through membership.
K-State’s percentage of graduates who are Alumni Association members is also ranked in the top five of the Power Five athletic conference schools, according to the 2016 Annual Report.
Dahlsten said the number of living graduates on record changes a few times a year, but the number of the association’s members changes daily, as people desiring to join can do so at any time.
Despite the constant change in membership, Cook said the number of members consistently stays above 40,000.
Current and future wildcats
Prior to college, infants can be enrolled in the Born to Be a Wildcat program, Cook said. When children outgrow this program, they can join the Junior Wildcats program, which is largely focused on involvement with K-State athletics. Then, they can be part of programs for high school sophomores and juniors that lead into attending K-State.
In the Alumni Association program for current K-State students, Wildcats Forever, there are around 1,600 members, Dahlsten said.
In addition to Wildcats Forever, current students can be a part of the Student Alumni Board. The board, made up of around 35 members, helps connect graduated, current and future K-Staters with the Alumni Association, according to the association’s website.
Students can also be impacted by the Alumni Association through scholarships that are provided by fundraising done by Alumni Association programs.
The total amount raised for scholarships last year was $434,685, which continues to increase every year, Cook said. A portion of those funds came from the association’s license plate program, which has 8,400 license plates distributed in Kansas and has brought in $3.4 million since its beginning in 1997.
“People want to be able to show their pride,” Dahlsten said. “That’s one thing we know alumni want. We want … activities, things that allow us to show our K-State pride, and that license plate on the back of your car, it’s got the powercat on it.”
Graduates, international students and friends
One of the main goals of the Alumni Association in making programs for K-State alumni is to provide a feeling of loyalty to the university that alumni can keep, Cook said.
“College was a life-changing moment, a period of time in their life,” Cook said. “They just want to stay loyal to K-State and show that connection.”
One of the first benefits that is available to K-State graduates from the Alumni Association is an optional free, year-long membership provided by the Alumni Association and the university. Cook said that this and a discounted membership rate for future years are ways the association promotes involvement among recent graduates.
Manhattan resident Tamren Sturges said she graduated from K-State in December 2009 and took advantage of the free first year of membership.
“I went ahead and used that and then we — my husband and I — just kept renewing it after that,” Sturges said.
Included in the growing list of other benefits exclusive for Alumni Association members are the K-Stater magazine sent out four times per year, a yearly printed calendar with K-State-related themes, discounts on some K-State products and athletic tickets and cost-free use of four-person meeting rooms in the Alumni Center building, Cook said.
In addition to enjoying the K-Stater magazine and the calendar, which she uses for work, Sturges said she also uses a discount for playing golf at Colbert Hills that Alumni Association members get.
Dahlsten said friends of K-State (non-graduates) and international students who only attended K-State temporarily are just as welcome to join the association as graduates.
“It’s more than just Riley County, greater than the state of Kansas, which is our biggest population,” Dahlsten said. “We want (international students) to make that connection and help us grow for the long term.”