Ten years ago, the MBA in Design Strategy program (DMBA) launched at California College of the arts – and forged new ground with an innovative program aiming to foster a new type of creative leader eager to design a world that is profitable, ethical, and remarkable. 

We had less than 30 students in our first class, all shaping our culture with their diverse backgrounds and perspectives. In the last decade as our program expanded and evolved, our alumni efforts struggled to keep up.

Early graduates from our DMBA program were faced with a unique challenge – how do we define our experience and education when it defies convention?

“We knew the success of our graduates lied in sustaining the community around them, and it would take an equally unconventional approach to meet those needs”

For over half a decade, our volunteer-led alumni organization was loosely organized through a series of email chains, online documents, spreadsheets, and meet-ups.

We hosted smaller events across the country and remained close to the program and current students. As our alumni association grew, we saw a natural strain keeping this community together through our various platforms and processes. We needed to centralize our efforts under a single platform.

The DMBA Alumni Association is unique. It is organized, funded and governed wholly by our alumni. This independence affords us the ability to move quickly and tailor alumni support to our diverse needs – and this had to be reflected in our alumni platform.

We created our own web apps, tested and reviewed a number of popular academic platforms and everything came up short.

Almabase was a home run right off the bat – within the first week of a pilot, we knew we could migrate our email newsletter, job board, contact list and news under one roof. Almabase had both the cutting-edge design and flexibility to customize the experience to exactly what we needed.

As a self-funded organization, we were able to leverage Almabase’s fundraising tools to drive donations that covered our programs, events and Almabase license.

Familiar to those who have used Kickstarter or similar funding platforms, alumni could easily donate and share progress with other alums. Within several weeks we easily hit our target goal, with a third of our overall alumni base participating in the first several weeks.

After our kickoff fundraiser, we worked closely with the Almabase team to migrate alumni databases, customize our site and configure smart membership plans that deliver the most requested features to our whole association.

Now, alumni can easily create a new account with their social accounts and have the most important data automatically sync to their profiles. Once signed up, alums can select a preferred membership level and access jobs, bulletin boards, events, news and our full alumni directory.

Our biggest hurdle previously was creating useful content and getting it out to the right alumni. With Almabase’s advanced email features, we can quickly create great-looking newsletters and segment to specific audiences: an effortless way to communicate with just a specific chapter or membership group.

Now up and running, Almabase signals the ways our alumni program has matured over the last decade. We’ve been happy to receive such a positive reception from our community and couldn’t have done it without the Almabase team and their ‘always-on’ support! We’ve only scratched the surface with what we can accomplish together – here’s to 2018!

Alex Scott was in the third graduating class of the DMBA program and currently is a chair of the DMBA Alumni Association. You can find out more about the DMBA program at //www.cca.edu/academics/graduate/design-mba. The DMBA Alumni Association can be found at //www.dmbaalumni.com/.

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