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It's all about affinity

Scholarly Orientation and Affinity – The Data Are In!

August 16th, 2011

As it turns out, the “gathering of the data” to assess whether the alumni of the “research universities” are more or less integrated in their respective alumni communities wasn’t exactly a “walk in the park.” Thanks to the many hours of hard work coding data by our Swedish exchange student/intern, Emil, I can report the survey results…

As it turns out, there is not a statistically significant difference with respect to overall BCI score: graduates of research-focused universities are equally integrated into their alumni communities as are their peers from the more teaching-focused universities/colleges. The alumni of the Carnegie Doctoral/Research Universities do report, however, higher integration scores with respect to how they feel about the institutional brand and their fellow students (peers).

Hmm….perhaps a little bit of digging into the individual survey items might offer some insight into these different scores. I might hypothesize that the greater visibility of the research universities in the media might increase alumni affinity for the “institutional identity” compared to the attitudes of graduates of the more teaching-oriented institutions. The peer score is less easy to understand. Perhaps there are other correlated issues that influence the higher “peer affinity” scores, like Division I athletics and tailgate parties? What are your thoughts, Dear Reader?

James McAlexander, Ph.D.
Dean’s Professor of Excellence
College of Business
Oregon State University

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5 Responses to “Scholarly Orientation and Affinity – The Data Are In!”

  1. Jaymes tadlock says:

    I would say that you would certainly find a stronger community connection to those that were involved in the university system beyond the classroom. I often sleek with alumni of the COB who have no further connection to the school other than seasonal sports. But I do find a small set that stay in contact with university staff that grew as individuals and made lasting relationships with peers and faculty beyond the collegiate sports community.

    Just an idea!

  2. Ron Cohen says:

    Jim, I believe there is also a density advantage with the “bigs” vs. the smaller institutions. If you live in Portland, what are the odds that you are going to bump into or read about an OSU grad compared to the odds of same with a Reed grad? And the “reads” and “bump-into” are most often associated with successful or noteworthy grads. So there’s positive reinforcement at the peer and brand levels.

    -Ron Cohen

  3. James McAlexander says:

    Jaymes and Ron, thank you so much for your insightful comments. Ron, I hadn’t thought about the density issue before. There is probably something there. Even so, the alumni of smaller schools, I imagine, might be more likely to recognize names and faces in the alumni publications and at events than will be the grads of the larger schools. I am a graduate of two large universities, and when I see the alumni publications I seldom see a name that I recognize. Of course, I am only one data point. These issues bear more upon the “peer to peer” issues than the brand. I can see how a larger alumni base may have more visibility in the community and the press, so the brand reinforcement may very well be stronger in that way.



  4. James McAlexander says:

    So, we did dig a bit into the BCI data on the issues of the higher scores for the Research-oriented schools as they relate to peer relationships and brand identification. What we find is that the graduates of the larger schools feel more brand pride than other alumni. They also enjoy being with fellow alumni more than the grads of the teaching-focused institutions. Alumni of both types of universities report no differences with regard to having good friends who are fellow alumni.

    So there’s what we have!


  5. Sammi says:

    I think the comments to this post and the research data all tie naturally together. Although grads from the larger institutions don’t recognize their fellow grads, they recognize the brand emblazoned on the sweatshirt of the person ahead of them in the coffee shop or wherever, and are much more likely to see that brand than that of a smaller school and feel a sense of belonging and positive reinforcement. Provided of course that the person isn’t ordering 10 triple mocha lattes and holding up the line. ;) Also, the research institutions tend to be in the news more for discoveries, advances, pundits, sports achievements, and etc. and the positive reinforcement of brand pride continues.

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