Questions for President Kwang-Wu Kim

DEMO: You’ve expressed a desire for the college to showcase more alumni success stories. What stories have caught your attention recently?

PRESIDENT KIM: The most notable story, of course, is Lena Waithe ’06 winning an Emmy for comedy writing in September. But several other alumni won Emmys this year in addition to Lena. The categories were less flashy on the surface, but there’s something telling about that: We’re not a school that says to its alumni, “You only matter to us if you do something glamorous.” Creative industries are full of professional opportunities, and our graduates excel in a variety of careers. We’re just beginning to put the right level of focus on our alumni, their successes, and their life stories.

DEMO: How does sharing those successes help Columbia College Chicago grow?

PRESIDENT KIM: It circles back to student recruitment and admissions. If you think about what prospective students—and certainly their families—are looking for when they choose a college, part of it is some evidence that what we say about ourselves is true: We are educating young creatives to be successful in the world.

DEMO: Columbia is building up its Development team and goals, including strengthening the college’s donor base and alumni network. What do alumni need to know about Development’s new strategy?

PRESIDENT KIM: We put a greater emphasis on engaging and re-engaging with our alumni a couple of years ago. Now that we have a new Development team up and running, we’re going to be asking alumni to think about different ways to help their college. That can mean a lot of different things: It can be a request for a commitment of time or a request for financial support. The National Alumni Board is very supportive of this initiative and is making a special effort this year to encourage alumni to, for example, serve as advocates for the college or support the recruitment of new students.

DEMO: Since pledging to increase fundraising, the members of the National Alumni Board have tripled their giving. Is Columbia experiencing fundraising momentum?

PRESIDENT KIM: You know, the number one reason people don’t give is that they were never asked. And the key to development success is shaping a compelling narrative that will excite people, putting fundraising professionals and volunteers in place who are truly enthusiastic and excited about the institution, and then going out and talking to a lot of prospective donors.

DEMO: How do alumni benefit from giving back to Columbia?

PRESIDENT KIM: If you are an alum, seeing your college grow, thrive, and respond to the world validates your own past experience as a student. The more Columbia’s star rises, the more the value of a Columbia degree increases. Because this is a community of creatives, I think there’s something very meaningful about alumni reaching back and helping the students who will come after them.