Alumni survey receives few minority responses

Emma Collins

The WKU Alumni Association has released the results of its 2016 Alumni Attitude Study and only a small percentage of respondents were members of minority groups.

Of the nearly 2,000 alumni who responded, only a little more than five percent of the respondents were African American. Responses from other minority groups, including Hispanics, Asian or Pacific Islanders and American Indians or Alaskans, totaled slightly under five percent.

John Carter, a current board member of the Alumni Association, said the low response rate could be attributed to a number of factors including address changes. He said the low response rate could make it more difficult to understand how African Americans feel about their connection to their alma mater. In his experience, however, Carter said most of the African Americans he knows are still happy with WKU.

“Most of the African Americans who I know who graduated from Western Kentucky still love the university,” Carter said. “It’s just a matter of them getting back involved and trying to get back on board.”

Anthony McAdoo, executive director of the Alumni Association, said the low response rate from minorities means it will be important to consider non-response bias when initially conducting the research.

“We’re not going to forget about those individuals as we make decisions,” McAdoo said.

McAdoo added he believes the percentage of people in minority groups who responded is probably reflective of the percentage of minorities who participate in the association.

At the last board meeting, Carter said there was discussion about how to increase the number of people in minority groups who are involved.

Carter believes advertising at events such as Homecoming may help increase the involvement of minority groups because so many people return to the university for those “big” events. In regards to African Americans, Carter said networking at the African American Step Show and collecting addresses and emails would be one way to reach more alumni.

“It’s not that they don’t want to participate, it’s just with life some of them have moved, addresses have changed, that kind of thing,” Carter said. “I know that’s one of our big things trying to reach out to minority graduates.”

In addition to receiving little response from minorities, the study, which was emailed to 56,552 alumni, only had a 3.5 percent response rate. This was a drop from the study conducted in 2012 which had a 6.2 percent response rate and was emailed to 37,369 alumni.

Greg Keightley, assistant director of alumni resources, said the association, which used the research firm Performance Enhancement Group, Ltd., did not know how many alumni would fill out the online study. Keightley said a decrease in response rates could be attributed to the number of surveys people regularly receive in their emails.

“According to the research firm that we worked with, the response rate that we received was a good response rate and well within a statistical point where we could rely on the data,” Keightley said.

McAdoo said the survey is useful because it allows an institution to understand how alumni feel about his or her relationship to the institution. He believes the results will also help facilitate dialogue between the institution and the alumni.

“We want our alumni to feel connected to and supportive of Western Kentucky University,” McAdoo said. “This allows us to identify areas where we potentially need to change or improve our services of if we’re addressing things that are no longer relevant.”

McAdoo said over the next year the association will use these results as well as the results from other studies, to create new priorities beginning July 1, 2017. After reviewing the survey results, McAdoo said he believes the association needs to focus on methods to reach out to younger graduates and those graduates who do not live close to the university. In addition to those target groups, McAdoo also said the association plans to focus on increasing minority involvement in the association.

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @thebest_dilemma.