The new alumni

Alumni:

a graduate or former student of a specific school, college, or university.

For a very long time I didn’t understand what this word meant.

When I was at university I heard it mentioned in passing, and then after I finished [1] it kept cropping up on various marketing propaganda that was persistently posted to me.

Alumni. 

Just looking at the word made me think of something dusty and dated: blazers and ties; boorish in-jokes at a private club I didn’t want to be a member of…even if they’d have me (cheers, Groucho).

In fact, for much of history, the word ‘alumni’ was used solely to describe those who were part of exclusive institutions. What’s more, this exclusive air permeated far deeper into society: an alumni could only be male.

Things had moved on somewhat since then, but for me there was no connection, no group to which I subscribed, no secret society.

I wasn’t alumni.

And then, 15 years after my first brush with the term, I realised it didn’t need to be this way.

Being involved in different programs and fellowships as both a facilitator and a participant allowed me to truly see why alumni matters, and why alumni could be about so much more than just the elite university or the corporate company.

It was all down to a mindset shift, a reframe.

Alumni are simply those who have been part of a shared experience

It’s this experience that’s what really matters – way above the brand, the credentials, the signaling.

Becoming alumni through this new lens is not by virtue of tenure or privilege, but through simply being part of the experience: of feeling the ups and downs, of seeing others’ experience, and sharing your own.

In our AMP NYC accelerator program here in New York we’re proud to have over 60 media & entertainment founders as alumni.

What’s more, many of our mentors – those who guide, and support, and challenge our participants – are alumni. 

We’ve found the best program experience comes from a mentor group consisting of both alumni and those holding other vantage points – whether as founders, independent practitioners, or operating in larger organizations. These diverse vantage points are crucial, but the program wouldn’t be what it is without the mentors who are alumni.

Here’s the thing about alumni in the traditional sense. At such scale, it’s rare for the experience to genuinely be a shared one. There are just too many variables at play: subjects, courses, buildings; professors, assistants, students; long chapters where the world has shifted from one group to the next.

Within the new wave of experiences – workshops, programs, interest-based communities – it’s different.

These are smaller, more focused. More carefully curated and cared for. They operate in shorter bursts, offering something more intense and vivid.

And although everyone within them comes from different and diverse places, we’re all heading the same way.

We see, notice, and understand each other. We’re closer-knit.

And as these groups continue to be curated and guided and grown, the alumni appear. They can share knowledge and wisdom that’s relevant, timely, and resonates. They’re not on a pedestal, they stand on the same ground. And they’re truly connected: not because of the stamp of approval from a faceless institution; but because they’ve been through it, felt it, and very often have become part of the fabric of it.

It’s why the new alumni are worth paying attention to, and worth joining.

I am alumni.

I hope you can be too.


[1] I don’t use the word ‘graduate’ as it’s not technically correct; I refused to go to the graduation ceremony.

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