Sometimes Thandi and Louisa have to put on their detective caps to trace alumni details.
They use various means, including the university’s electronic student data system called Varsite, or by phoning younger alumni’s parents whose contact details are still on the university’s database.
They also use Market IQ, which is a communication service alerting the university about NWU information carried in the media. When reading about an alumnus, Thandi and Louisa make sure that the person’s details are on their electronic database, called the Stakeholder Manager System.
At NWU graduation ceremonies, graduates are also asked to complete a card, giving their latest contact details.
Another good source of information is social media, including Facebook and LinkedIn, where Thandi and Louisa can see for instance where alumni are employed, and then phone them at work.
It is only after every possible lead has been followed that they will capture some alumni as being non-contactable.
Their friendly voices are definitely one of their best assets. That’s clear when you consider that the NWU’s Thandi Ralekgetho and Louisa Vermeulen have updated more than 60 500 alumni’s contact details since 2014, mainly by phoning them.
Let’s be more specific. Working in the institutional alumni office, these two – with the help of some colleagues every now and then – updated a total of
21 384 alumni’s details during 2014. The total for 2015 was 20 852. In the first half of this year, this time more or less on their own, they updated – wait for it – a total of 18 335 alumni’s details.
But why is it necessary to update contact details? Well, in the first place, you, our alumni, are – along with our students and staff – our most important stakeholder group. We want to keep you in the loop about everything happening at the NWU and without your latest, updated contact details, we can’t send you information.
Secondly, it is also about two-way communication. When creating a communication line between you and the university, it also gives you some means to contact us.
“Most alumni are very glad to hear from us,” says Louisa. “The older people especially love to talk to us about their student years, or tell us about their children and grandchildren who also studied at the NWU. Sometimes I get the idea that they are lonely and welcome a friendly chat.”
Thandi and Louisa contact the alumni of all three campuses and try to accommodate everyone’s language preferences. Louisa is Afrikaans and English, while Thandi speaks, in addition to her native Setswana, a little isiZulu and isiXhosa. “The older alumni in particular feel more at ease when talking in their mother tongue,” Thandi says.
Fortunately, the instances where grumpy people on the other side of the line are rude to them, are few and far between. “Only a few say they don’t want to be contacted, and in those cases, we capture them on our data base as DNC, which stands for ‘do not contact’,” explains Louisa.
Then, in some instances, a phone call can turn out to be sad. This happens when they phone alumni only to hear from the family members answering the phone that they have passed away.
“Once the son answered, telling me that his parents – both NWU alumni – had died in a car accident only a few days before my call. That was really upsetting,” says Louisa.
Since 2016, Thandi’s and Louisa’s work is also a case of killing two birds with one stone. “We help the Potchefstroom Campus to phone alumni to tell them about reunions,” says Thandi.
When doing this, they use the opportunity to make sure that they have the alumni’s most recent contact details. These include full names, ID numbers, married surnames and email, postal and residential addresses.
So, next time you hear Louisa’s or Thandi’s voice on the telephone, you can say hi, and then have a lovely chat while updating your contact details – with the assurance that behind that friendly voice is a friendly NWU face.
The NWU & U
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Alumni often ask Thandi and Louisa for the details of their old varsity friends, but according to the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 (known as the POPI act), they are not allowed to do that without the person’s consent.
“We first contact the person in question, asking permission to give his or her contact details to the enquiring alumnus,” explains Thandi. “Only then can we disclose any details.”
If your contact details have not been updated recently, please contact Louisa and Thandi:
018 285 2592
018 285 2590
Kindly pass on these contact details to other alumni who might need to update their personal information.
NWU & U