Interview with Kevin Schoonover
Interview Conducted by Tracey Epstein (Q14)
QUESTPress: How do you think the QUEST program as a whole has done in achieving the goals laid out in the June 2009 issue of the QUEST press?
Kevin Schoonover: In 2009, the QUEST program and a few energetic alumni created goals for the future relationship the QUEST alumni and the rest of the QUEST program/community. These goals included: strengthening the alumni database, creating an alumni/student mentorship program, developing social events in key alumni cities, and increasing overall program awareness and pride. In order to accomplish these goals, the QUEST Alumni Board was created.
One of the first tasks the QAB began working on was improving the database of alumni information with a major goal of getting in touch with as many alumni as possible prior to the QUEST 20th anniversary event. To accomplish this, the program identified members from each of the 20 cohorts to market the event. After a successful event where we had representation from Cohort 1 to 20 present at the anniversary, the Alumni database was significantly more up-to-date. Currently, the QAB is working to organize and keep current this information for all current and future QUEST alumni. One goal is for the updated alumni database to be used to provide a service to the QUEST alumni network. I travel a great deal for my job, and it would be great to meet up with QUEST alumni for a lunch or dinner when I am in a new city just to catch up.
In addition to building the alumni network the QAB has kicked off the alumni mentor program and received an impressive response from alumni to support this budding program. In the past two years, the QAB has been able to increase the QUEST network and raise awareness with happy hours in Washington DC, Baltimore, Arlington, and New York City. We hope to hold more events and with more frequency in these cities so that the QUEST communities in these cities can continue to grow in strength.
QP: What initiative(s) do you think has the biggest impact in expanding and strengthening the alumni network?
KS: The key initiatives to grow the alumni network are the efforts that give back to the alumni. Each alumni member has different memories and desires for their experience with the QAB. Some alumni want to give back to the quest program with their time by volunteering to come back to UMD to support QUEST events. Others want to expand their personal networks to help them move forward within their career goals. There are also those who are just interested in catching up with old friends that they may have lost touch with because of their changes in locations or careers. QAB is working to develop initiatives that touch on all the key components of what QUEST alumni value. Examples of these initiatives are: the development of educational and fun activities for alumni, an organized alumni communication system so as to manage the communication with our community, collaboration with the QUEST program to increase opportunities for alumni to give back to the current students, and release a QUEST database for which alumni can search for their friends and other nearby “QUEST’ies”.
QP: What do we still need to focus on in order to get alumni more involved in QUEST, especially in terms of attending alumni events, getting in touch with the current students, and donating to the program?
KS: I believe to get more alumni involved in QUEST, QAB needs to consistently push to increase the value proposition it offers to the alumni. QAB must make sure the alumni who have interests in giving back or being involved get these opportunities in a timely fashion. In addition, QAB must ensure that our alumni feel valued when the do give their time or donations. Most importantly, QAB must ensure that when alumni come back, they have fun!
QP: What are the plans for further improving the alumni network? When can we expect to see those plans go into place?
KS: The QAB has established a sub-committee whose main goal is to organize the alumni network through the development of an alumni management system. This system will ensure communication with the alumni network is timely, valuable, and meets the alumni needs. We expect this system to initially go live by Fall 2013, which will allow for a QUEST alumni database to be potentially released to the network by next year.
QP: Any other comments about the QAB, the alumni network, or how the QUEST program overall has changed since June 2009?
KS: When I was a student in the QUEST program, I learned that the more you put into something, the more you will get out of the experience. I have embraced this theory and I am constantly reminded of its truth through my interactions with the QUEST community. As an alumnus, I have seen the alumni interaction with the QUEST community consistently increase. In addition, the energy and determination exhibited by the QAB members and volunteers from the QUEST alumni community blows me away. We, as the QAB, have a passion to make QUEST the best program both for current students but for our alumni.