Protopia’s Ryan Catherwood interviews Savannah Stanberry, Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs at Appalachian State University where she focuses on young alumni engagement.
Ryan: App State has been consistently recognized as the No. 1 most innovative school in the South for four years in a row. What do you think contributes to the university’s ability to foster innovation?
Savannah: I believe it’s primarily our strong culture of support, not just for students but also for faculty and staff. We provide everyone with the opportunity and a safe space to explore new ideas and pursue new research initiatives. This support empowers people to embrace innovation.
Ryan: That’s great to hear! Having the backing to take calculated risks and knowing it’s okay to fail is crucial. You have to step outside your comfort zone.
Ryan: What do you enjoy most about working at Appalachian State?
Savannah: I come from a family of App State alumni, so the school holds a special place in my heart. There’s a profound sense of community here, driven by the town, the setting, and the outdoor activities. It’s remarkable how our location creates a strong bond among alumni. They often reminisce about local spots or hiking trails. Boone, NC, truly brings people together.
Ryan: What are the key areas of focus for engagement at App State, and what are your goals for this year?
Savannah: In the Office of Alumni Affairs, we’re all about fostering engagement. We serve as the first point of contact when alumni reconnect with their alma mater. We work on creating numerous avenues for connection, including sports teams, virtual opportunities, and events. Our aim is to provide diverse ways for alumni to reconnect with the university.
Ryan: How does Protopia fit into your engagement plans, and what changes are you hoping to see in how you engage students, alumni, and donors?
Savannah: Protopia plays a significant role in our student-to-alumni transition programs. It helps bridge the gap as students and alumni share common experiences. For us, it’s about providing new avenues for alumni to connect and contribute, especially for those who are scattered across the country. Perhaps monetary contributions aren’t feasible, but Protopia offers a practical way for alumni to make a difference in students’ journeys.
Ryan: You opted not to go with a mentoring platform. Can you explain why?
Savannah: After extensive research and conversations with other schools using Protopia, we discovered the value of support in this partnership. While traditional mentoring programs can be valuable, we noticed a trend where students were less inclined to engage in long-term mentorships. Quick, one-off interactions were more appealing. It’s about reducing barriers to participation and allowing interactions to naturally evolve into longer-term relationships.
Ryan: You recently launched Ask a Mountaineer. How’s it going so far?
Savannah: We’re approximately six weeks into the initiative, and we’ve received tremendous support from campus leadership. Our Chancellor even included it in her newsletter to the university community. We’ve met with Deans and campus partners because this is a campus-wide effort, and their support has been invaluable.
I’ve had the privilege of reviewing all the questions. The quality of questions and responses has been impressive. I wasn’t sure if we’d get less meaningful questions, but it’s been a source of pride to see the caliber of engagement from both students and alumni.
Ryan: Thank you for sharing! Wishing you and your team the best as you continue to develop Ask a Mountaineer.