By Jon Stroshine, News Editor
Published Oct. 19, 2012
Kyle Van Buren knows what it's like to have to wait.
When the 2007 Taylor alum was a junior, he had his eye on fellow Lighthouse trip member Stacey, now his wife.
"If you're familiar with the Lighthouse experience . . . it's kind of hands-off on dating your team members," Van Buren said. "I was able to kind of get to know her a lot better through all that, and then we kinda started hanging out more."
This weekend, as graduates descend on Upland for homecoming weekend, Taylor's alumni relations office is in the midst of its own courtship: reconnecting with young alums like Van Buren through a program called the Taylor Ten.
Taylor administrators hope to draw on the power of memories such as Van Buren's to create a stronger network of recent graduates, a group on which the University has not focused in the past few years, according to Associate Vice President for Alumni and Parent Relations Brent Rudin.
"We want to have long-term relationships with our alumni," Rudin said. "If we can do things things to help strengthen that connection in the first ten years, then that's more likely to persist the rest of their lives."
The concept, known as the Taylor Ten (for graduates who are no more than ten years removed from Taylor), is an effort to network with new alumni on the former students' terms.
That means networking with young alums, helping them find jobs and putting on events to help them reconnect.
Taylor put on an event at the Chicago restaurant Portillo's in mid-September to give the large population of young alumni in the area a place to gather.
"We truly want to provide a network, a service, encouragement, helping people find other Taylor folks that are near them," Rudin said. "That's what this is all about, and keeping them connected to the university."
Although programming for young alumni has always existed, the focus on finding ways to connect with the demographic is new.
Some alumni, like 2011 graduate Laura Convy, find their own way to stay in touch with Taylor. For her, that means representing the Trojans at college fairs near her residence in Carmel, Ind.
"I had such an awesome experience at Taylor that I just wanted to share that with so many other people," Convy said. "If I could impact the lives of other people and help be a tool in their decision to go to Taylor . . . that just makes me feel so proud."
For other alumni, like 2009 graduate Megan Sauder, the constant search of current students for internships and jobs provided a way to give back to the school.
This summer, Taylor senior Erin Guarneri interned at Saddleback Church in southern California, where Sauder works. Sauder saw the relationship as a chance to be a mentor.
"I think everyone, especially Taylor students. . . . want to do something great with their lives," Sauder said. "Sometimes the reality post-college can kind of hit them and discourage them, and so, for me, I love encouraging them."
One potential source of discouragement for those recently graduated is finances. The often-unsettled nature of their bank accounts and living situations can make building relationships with them difficult.
". . . Young alums does seem to be a challenging group for universities to figure out how to meaningfully engage," said Drew Moser, Taylor's Director of Career Development in an e-mail. "I think it's because young alums are a fairly transient group (they move a lot). They are increasingly coming out of college with more debt (which hinders their ability to donate money)."
The idea of giving back financially is often difficult for those fresh out of college, especially those who bring a lot of debt with them from their time at Taylor, according to Van Buren.
Despite that reality, staying connected is still important, says 2011 graduate Jake Bourdon.
"I know a lot of us younger alumni are sometimes annoyed by requests for giving," Bourdon said. "But if it wasn't for a great, connected alumni base, a lot of the new stuff that (students) are getting to see on campus right now . . . probably wouldn't be able to be there."
As much as buildings mean, several alumni talk about the friends they made and the experience they had as reasons for the enduring connection they feel to Taylor.
For the Van Burens, even though their marriage, five years of time, and the birth of their son Weston are between them and their graduation, Taylor is still special.