Universiteit Leiden

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The importance of an engaged alumni network

One of the good things about my job is that I come into contact with so many different alumni. It’s incredibly important that we build good relationships with our alumni from a young age already. We can help our graduates develop skills and grow their network, and they in turn can help our organisation and current students.

In this column Annetje Ottow, Hester Bijl and Martijn Ridderbos give a peek behind the scenes at the Executive Board of Leiden University. What does their work involve? What are they enthusiastic about? What challenges do they face? Building a healthy and engaged learning community begins with sharing what you are up to. This time it’s the turn of Annetje Ottow.

The alumni office organises an incredible number of activities to engage our alumni with our university. These courses, lectures and newsletters keep them up to date and give them access to our expertise after graduation. This ensures that everyone continues to experience that Leiden feeling. The Leiden University Fund (LUF) manages various funds and finances teaching and research. Many students and staff receive donations from the fund every year. I represent Leiden University on the LUF’s board.

Young Alumni Network

Last week I met the Young Alumni Network, JAN. They also organise various activities, such as courses and meetings. It was great to see their enthusiasm and commitment to Leiden University and our young alumni. What became clear from talking to them was that they deserve more recognition among graduates. It’s a really useful network for graduates but they have to know it exists. How to ensure students find out about the alumni network and LUF from day one was one of the things I discussed with the board of JAN. 

Because it works both ways: many alumni are in relevant jobs and can forge links with partners and open doors to politicians and other stakeholders. Someone from the business world can be incredibly valuable to a PhD candidate or a student looking for an internship. And alumni are obviously potential participants in our professional training. There are many opportunities that we could become more aware of.


Donors are also very important to our university. We have a lot of contact with them and look at how to realise more funding. The LUF is going to launch a campaign to showcase the University’s interdisciplinary programmes, a wonderful fundraising campaign that should get people enthusiastic about funding the fantastic work that is done at our university. This will enable donors to contribute to research that is important to them.

‘If you had a good time in Leiden, you’d probably like today’s generation to have one too.’ 

And if you are a researcher, don’t forget the LUF when you are seeking funding. It may just be able to help. There are many opportunities that we could make better use of. The LUF can also help students wishing to travel abroad or needing other support. It set up an emergency fund when war broke out in Ukraine, for example. Students and staff who are affected by the war can receive support from the LUF. 

If you had a good time in Leiden, you’d probably like today’s generation to have one too. That’s why alumni are always willing to give something back and it’s how we are building a network of engaged and informed alumni who donate their time, talent and money to Leiden University’s strategic goals. Which is wonderful to see!

Does this strike a chord or would you like to share any insights or experiences relating to this column? If so, send us an email at nieuws@leidenuniv.nl.

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