Working in Alumni Affairs means that we are all relatively well-versed with the proper usage of what, as it turns out, is a pretty confusing word. I wanted to write this blog entry to address the proper use of this mysterious noun and at the same time, perhaps save some innocent souls from the scourge of incorrect usage.
First things first, we’ll get the obvious out of the way.
“Alumnus” – in Latin a masculine noun – refers to a male graduate or former student. The plural is “alumni”.
“Alumna” – in Latin a feminine noun – refers to *you guessed it* a female graduate or former student. The plural is “alumnae”.
If a group includes both genders, even if there is only one male, the plural form alumni is used. At Waterloo, institutionally we only use alumnus and alumni in an effort to reduce confusion, so you’ll find that we regularly refer to a female graduate as an alumnus.
The University of Waterloo employs more than 1,100 alumni as faculty and staff. We’re spread across the campus in varying capacities and for the most part, it is safe to say that we love our school – so much so that we never left!
In the Alumni Affairs office specifically, our passion for our school and for higher education in Canada translates into the work we do to keep our graduates connected and engaged with programming that has value for them. Often alumni ourselves, we work to find programming that is most relevant and in demand, then create opportunities for our grads to stay connected by participating in that programming.
“What is this ‘alumni programming’ you speak of?”
We offer everything from AWESOME alumni events where grads are invited to network with each other and have a chance to ‘get their Waterloo on’, to specially priced group rates for important purchases such as life and auto insurance. Farther afield there are opportunities to participate in an Alumni Chapter or to become a ‘Global Ambassador’ and spread the word that a degree from Waterloo is a valuable commodity. And regardless of where you are, as long as you are wired you can stay connected by reading our monthly e-newsletter – carefully crafted to keep you up to date with your school – and ‘liking’ our uWaterloo Alumni Facebook page where we are continually posting photos and stories of interest. See? There’s lots!
However….I must warn you to not become so busy in your life that you don’t have time to add the last syllable. Once you start using ‘alum’ to reference graduates, you’ve crossed the line. ‘Alum’ is an element that can be found on the periodic table of elements, NOT at networking events, lectures or convocation ceremonies (generally speaking).
So reference your status as an alumnus with pride…just do it correctly. (I’m fighting an urge to put an emoticon smiley face here, since this part is serious.)
Phew, I hope I covered it all,