Mysterious organization unveils itself

Their goal: to make sure every student sees success after college and they never leave Tech behind.

Their methods: philanthropic initiatives selected by members, hanging out with and attending talks by Tech alumni and deriving inspiration from Tech’s traditions and history.

After months of erratic marketing through matrix barcodes and yellow-splattered banners with vague event descriptions and geographic coordinates, the Student Alumni Association (SAA) finally revealed itself last Thursday.

Informational desks occupied by both students and alumni at major campus landmarks attracted potential new members with massive crowds, freebies and food from sponsors including Waffle House, Chick-fil-a, Rita’s and Coca-Cola.

“[At Launch Day], I ate, chilled with friends, took some silly bands and listened to music. I joined for the free stuff, and I wanted to be more involved on campus,” said Charlotte Huang, second-year IsyE major. “It seemed like something cool to look into.”

Members all enjoy a first-time “swag bag,” an alumni mentor, dinner meetings with alumni, presentations by alumni about real-world skills, member appreciation days, spirit days, a graduation gift and tradition tours.

“We’re trying to create a community here,” said John Hanson, president of SAA and fifth-year IsyE major. “Tech is such a diverse community that it’s nice to have something that connects everybody, and we’re hoping SAA can provide that.”

Aside from participating in their programming, members are encouraged to join committees that design, market and operate the programs.

“We will be putting surveys out to ask students for potential interest in committees,” Hanson said. “We make sure interested students are moving forward and tell students to be as active as possible in the organization.”

While SAA is now a very public and interactive organization, it was not always so. From its inception in 1988 to its dissolution in 2003, the SAA was a private organization open only to those selected via the application process.

Two years ago, however, the Student Foundation, backed by the Georgia Tech Alumni Association (GTAA), reorganized the SAA with a new mission to both bring alumni attention back to campus and to take student’s attention to their future in the career world off-campus.

“When students graduate ,there’s a time when they just step away from Tech…. [They] won’t make contact, and [the GTAA] wanted to keep that passion and interest in the school,” Hanson said.

GTAA contributes financial backing as well as professional support, like contributing to SAA’s unique marketing campaign.

“The Alumni Association’s Vice President of Marketing Renee Queen helped teach us exactly how to market starting from a programming point,” said Amy Wilson, vice president of marketing for SAA and a fourth-year STaC major. “We branded the organization first, and then we went through the entire marketing strategy of how we market completely differently from any other organization.”

After months of planning and probing via focus groups, their efforts yielded the “splat campaign,” which now occupies building windows and walls and student T-shirts.

Wilson said that each campus-wide marketing campaign will have a different theme, and they will all be the main sources of building support for SAA’s programs, as there will be no regular meetings like other student organizations.

“We have the MentorJackets program, so every SAA member will have the opportunity to connect with one alumni…we have the DinnerJackets program, so we go to an alumni’s house or restaurant to get a more personal feel for what it’s like to be an [alumnus]… and we have the Get Ready for the Real World program where students can see a big alumni come back and talk about something like financing your first house,” Hanson said.

The organization, with a slew of goals and initiatives, can fund itself with an annual membership fee of $10. This donation is split equally between the Student Foundation, through its endowment fund, and the SAA Gift to Tech, which is comprised of the top six projects voted on by all students and carried out by members and alumni.

“[We are] creating a philanthropic aspect for the school, showing students that [members] really care about giving back… even when they graduate,” Hanson said. “Whether it’s putting a bench in a park or helping the police department with programming to promote safety, all the money students are putting into this organization [is invested] directly back into the school.”

According to Hanson, over 1000 students have joined. Additionally, all of the $10 donations have been matched by alumni via GTAA and personally by Tech alumnus Marc Dash, AE alum ‘66.

“[Dash] is a passionate alumnus who really cares about giving back to Tech and connecting with students. When [the GTAA] popped up this idea about SAA, he grasped it and wanted to help out,” Hanson said.

SAA plans a career seminar, a member appreciation day at Waffle House and a round table discussion for undergraduates about graduate schools. SAA also encourages anyone to check out their website, where they can join the association, make donation, check their calendar or learn more about the benefits and programs.

http://nique.net/focus/101041

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