by Cameron Loyd
Last August, the very first RoboJackets alumni newsletter was sent out. Since then, it’s been a great year of monthly stories, team updates, and member features. We’d like to take a look back at the start of the alumni newsletter and the past issues created by the newsletter team.
The discussion around how to best serve RoboJackets alumni is no stranger to the organization, and some first steps to implementing a real structure for alumni involvement were taken in 2019 and early 2020. Around this time, there was a critical mass of alumni who were still active and involved in RoboJackets. These alumni began having stakeholder meetings with current leadership to work towards the incorporation of RoboJackets, which was the most pressing need at the time; these meetings would later be formalized into RoboJackets, Inc. corporate meetings and the RoboJackets alumni association. A secondary outcome of these meetings was the more general question of what alumni can do for the organization, and vice versa. Since Motorama had just occurred, the idea of an alumni newsletter to report on competitions, progress within RoboJackets, and general organization happenings was proposed.
From this initial proposal, the RJ President, Vice President, and PR Chair (Joe Spall, James Reed, and Vijay Srivastava) at the time took steps to outline more specific goals for the alumni newsletter and consolidate our previously unorganized lists of alumni contacts and business cards. Other early discussions included which topics alumni would be interested in, whether to include sponsors on the newsletter, and how to promote the newsletter on our social media platforms. That work provided a solid foundation for the next core officers (Alex Field, Ava Thrasher, and Cameron Loyd) to recruit alumni writers, solidify content plans, and design the first newsletter, which was eventually sent in August 2020. From there, it’s been a constant flow of brainstorming and content creation to send a monthly, hopefully engaging email to our growing audience of alumni and friends and family. A secondary goal of the newsletter team was to ensure the longevity of this project, and to do so the writing and publishing process was well-defined and documented throughout the year. Most recently, management of the newsletter was successfully handed over to the 2021 core officer team (Shishir Pandit-Rao, Tan Gemicioglu, and Shail Patel), which shows that the project can change hands and thrive for many years to come.
To get more of a personal insight into the newsletter writing process, we asked Jonathan Spalten, an alumni writer who nearly single-handedly kicked off the newsletter, and Alex Field, one of the members of the founding core officer team, what they thought of when looking back on a year of newsletters. Jonathan stated: “Writing for the newsletter has been a great opportunity to provide some extra support to the organization even after graduation. Because of how we write the newsletter, it gives me the opportunity to get a glimpse into what’s still going on [in] the club, which I hope gets translated down into the articles we write to let other alumni have that same opportunity.” He also mentioned that his favorite articles to write have been the recent alumni spotlights, as it allows him “to check in with some alumni we haven’t heard from in a while, and also to hear their perspective on how RJ still influences them in their professional lives.” Alex had similar thoughts on the importance of the newsletter, saying that alumni are “members just like the students currently in the organization. Once a member, always a member. The newsletter allows us to involve every single member with our teams and projects, whether they are with us currently and away at whatever great career and future they are leading.” He pointed to motivation and overall growth as the most critical factor for keeping the newsletter going. “As we continue each year, our graduating classes will be able to take part, increasing those numbers which will make our writers even more motivated to work hard. The challenge has always been, “How can we push through these tough early stages and keep a consistent stream of high quality content?”…[W]ith the rejuvenated interest we have received from the alumni and the newly found alumni association, we have the needed support to keep going strong while preventing our [current] leaders from feeling too overwhelmed.”
Overall, we hope to see the alumni newsletter continue to progress in the coming months and years. It’s a labor of love for us communication-challenged engineering students. It’s taken the effort of nearly all current RoboJackets leadership and a dedicated and talented team of alumni to get us to this point. The framework and goals set up over the past two years will continue to evolve, and we hope to see the audience of the newsletter grow as we retain alumni contacts and improve our content. If you have any feedback or comments for our newsletter team as we begin our second year of issues, please fill out this form and feel free to share our subscription link (news.robojackets.org) with any other RJ alumni, friends, or family you think would be interested! Also, if you’re an alumnus with a passion for writing who would like to get involved in the newsletter pipeline, reach out to Tan Gemicioglu via Slack or email to learn more; we’d love to have you!