Postcards from alumni give record freshman class a warm welcome

University of Iowa alumni from around the country wrote more than 2,500 postcards to first-year students this summer.

A record number of incoming freshmen will arrive on the University of Iowa campus in the coming weeks. But big numbers hardly equate to an impersonal college experience, as many first-year students are learning even before arriving in Iowa City.

Freshmen-to-be from around the country opened their mailboxes to find hand-written postcards from UI alumni this summer. In a new initiative coordinated by the UI Alumni Association and Office of Admissions, members of IOWA Clubs across the U.S. mailed out thousands of postcards to new students in their regions, congratulating them on their college selection and welcoming them to the Hawkeye family.

“I think it’s a great thing for freshmen who are getting ready to head to Iowa to begin their college career to hear from successful alumni in their hometown area,” says Brent Gage, UI’s associate vice president for enrollment management. “It reaffirms that you’re making a great decision by choosing Iowa, and I don’t know who can say that better than our alumni.”

UI is anticipating about 5,700 freshmen this fall—nearly 450 more than 2015’s record class and over 1,000 more than in 2014.  All told, alumni with IOWA Clubs mailed more than 2,500 postcards to freshmen in their cities, with the goal of reaching even more students next year.

The St. Louis IOWA Club, for instance, has 39 freshmen from its area leaving for Iowa City this fall. Club leaders Jill and Scott Serbousek penned each a postcard—a small gesture they hope fosters a feeling of hospitality before the start of their college careers.

“There’s Iowa alumni all over the country and the world, and this shows them we care,” Scott Serbousek said. “It also makes the parents feel more comfortable sending their students to Iowa.”

The Chicago IOWA Club has the largest list of students from its area—1,835 freshmen, or nearly a third of the incoming class—and about 40 alumni in the Windy City helped write them each a postcard.

Several clubs around the country are also hosting send-off parties this month, including the St. Louis alumni. The hope is that by connecting with students during their time at Iowa, the transition to becoming an engaged and active alumnus after graduation is a natural one. And, says Scott Serbousek, it’s a great way to get the parents of students involved in game watches and other club events.

“As they head off to school, their parents also have a place to go—if we can convert them into Hawkeye fans,” Sebousek laughs.

The Alumni Association coordinates 54 IOWA Clubs in the U.S., as well as 16 international clubs. In 2015-16, club leaders recorded nearly 20,000 members who participated in activities.

– Josh O’Leary, Iowa Alumni Magazine

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