Annual awards have been established to acknowledge alumni relations professionals and alumni programs in member schools that put forth best efforts and practices while contributing to the advancement of the industry. Awards are presented at the annual conference in July. It’s a time to be recognized for dedication, hard work, and service to alumni. The winning school for each award will receive one free registration to the following year’s ABSAP conference.  (The free registration may not be held for a future year.)

Learn more about ABSAP’s awards and the nomination process.

Award Winners

Please click each Header to reveal the details.
Most Innovative New Initiative
Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Alumni Voice Panel
In November 2018, Wisconsin kicked off the Alumni Voice Panel, an online panel of alumni that provides regular input and insight to the school. This was not only an opportunity for alumni to share their insights and opinions on alumni programming, events, and communications, but it was also a new and scalable engagement opportunity for the school. With a goal of attracting 300 panelists for a 12-month commitment they had more than 1,000 alumni raise their hand to participate. Since then, Wisconsin has fielded monthly activities to the panel with the objective of answering questions that make the team smarter in how they approach their work through actionable insights. Activities have included understanding how their alumni consume content and what type they consume, testing message strategies for school initiatives, understanding price preferences and thresholds for events, and determining the most effective stewardship practices for donors. To date, the panel has generated more than 3,000 responses with an average response rate of over 50% per activity. To sustain engagement and share impact, Wisconsin also established a quarterly communication to report learnings. Beyond alumni participation, they have been able to take action as a result. The panel has informed the team’s work in a number of ways, including the development of a new alumni email newsletter and the creation of a pricing strategy that decreased the no-show rate at events.


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Most Improved Alumni Relations Initiative
W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University
Back to Class

Five years ago, the Carey School started its “Back to Class” initiative to reach alumni who were not currently engaged, to promote the school and alumni community as resources for lifelong learning, and to create a sense of nostalgia amongst its alumni population. The event has been successful in bringing alumni back to campus, but the team still struggled to find an avenue to engage non-local alumni in a comparable way.  With over 100,000 alumni across the globe, this was a priority, so Carey made some improvements to the “Back to Class” program to help engage a global audience.  The “Back to Class” initiative is now not only a lecture offered live and in person, but also available by live-stream.  With the help of moderators who monitor the virtual classroom during the session, online participants are able to ask questions, provide comments, and interact with the faculty member.  In addition to live-streaming, the class sessions are now recorded.  If alumni are not able to attend sessions in person or via live-stream, they are able to view the content at a later date when it is more convenient for them.

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Outstanding Partnership
Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland
Smith on the Road Featuring Dingman Bootstrapped

The alumni relations team at the Smith School approached the two co-hosts of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s popular podcast, 
Bootstrapped, about an opportunity to partner, and the co-hosts were supportive and eager to engage.  Now in season 6, the Bootstrapped podcast features funders and founders from the Dingman Center network.  In partnership these groups have hosted events in-studio as the co-hosts interview local alumni about their entrepreneurial journeys.  The studio session is followed with a networking reception.  Since the first partnership, this alumni relations team and the Dingman Center have continued to partner and have hosted events at the Google Community Space in San Francisco and at the WeWork Times Square.  By demonstrating a successful partnership with this school entity, the alumni relations team has now been able to recruit other colleagues to partner with them, including the Office of Career Services, the university-wide Alumni Association, and the development team.  Given the success of this partnership, the group is already making plans to take this event on the road to Baltimore and other possible locations.

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Outstanding New Professional (Co-Recipients)

Ashley Durham
, Tippie College of Business, University of Iowa In just over a year, Ashley has had a tremendous impact as Director of Alumni Relations.  Her work has included rethinking Tippie’s monthly alumni email; reviewing engagement scores to determine where to hold alumni events; evaluating the school’s many mentoring programs; and launching a new Toast to Graduation and a webinar series.  She has accomplished all of this while orchestrating numerous alumni events and connecting students to alumni at key businesses.  In addition, one of her largest tasks has been to coordinate the operations of Tippie’s Young Alumni Board.  Ashley has helped this board develop a strategic plan and achieve a 100% giving record.  Her nominators noted they were impressed by her positive, personal nature, how she manages event challenges with expertise and grace, is warm and welcoming to all alumni, and is adept at the organization and logistics that underlie successful engagement initiatives.

Kyle Rowland
Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University After one year of service on the Jones alumni team, Kyle was promoted from Alumni Relations Specialist to Assistant Director, Alumni Relations.  Kyle’s promotion was due to her amazing work ethic and productivity and her innate ability to lead and inspire.  She has made a positive impact across various fronts and has shown adaptability, leadership, and a can-do attitude through times of unexpected staff turnover and organizational transition.  Some of the areas where Kyle has made a tremendously positive impact include the alumni database, class ambassador program, regional events, alumni awards, and alumni newsletter.  Kyle is detail oriented, meticulous in her work, numbers- and data-driven, analytical, and logical.  She is a hard worker, reliable, fun, confident, kind, and easy to talk to.  Kyle presents herself professionally and courteously to alumni but is also friendly and able to work a room with poise, polish, and humor.  


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Outstanding Service to ABSAP
Katie ThomassonDuke University’s Fuqua School of Business Katie has been an extremely valuable asset to ABSAP, especially over the past year. She serves on the ABSAP Board and also leads the Conference Planning Committee and Awards Task Force – leadership roles that are year-round commitments. She has dedicated a lot of time to making sure each host school is equipped with the information they need to run a smooth conference. Katie has done a lot of work behind the scenes to gather historical documents in an effort to record best practices and guidelines for future host schools. She was also instrumental in the implementation of the “New Professional Scholarship” that launched this year.
Most Improved Alumni Relations Initiative
Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder


“Leeds Business Insights”  After seeing declining attendance numbers for its regional receptions in conjunction with student treks in its Tier 1 cities from FY15 to FY17, Leeds reassessed attendance data, reviewed both qualitative and quantitative feedback, held internal discussions with staff, and decided to change everything from the intended audience to the messaging and the purpose of these events. Previous discussions with alumni indicated more content-based programs were desired. Leeds Business Insights is a series of speaking and networking opportunities for Leeds alumni to connect and engage with the Leeds network and hear from Leeds’ world-renowned faculty about their research. In the first year there have been 752 registrations, with 447 attending.  Nine out of ten attendees would recommend a Leeds Business Insights event to a friend or colleague, and 80% of the attendees were new to the regional events.


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Outstanding Partnership 
Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University
“B School Disrupt”

In 2016 Stanford GSB hosted an event in the Bay Area anchored around TechCrunch Disrupt. The event, B School Disrupt, featured start-up teams as they pitched their ideas in a showcase setting rather than a competition. The following year they invited three other schools to participate with a sold-out crowd in San Francisco. The joint event included a keynote and feedback from a panel of alumni experts.  B School Disrupt has also taken place in New York for the past two years in partnership with two other schools. These schools have worked together to invite alumni start-up teams to pitch their company to the crowd and to provide a space for their alumni communities to mix, mingle, and network. The vibe and energy of the event is collaborative, upbeat, fun, and informative.  
Not only has this been a strong partnership among different institutions, but each school works with its respective center for entrepreneurship and its local chapters to identify alumni pitch teams, speakers, emcees, and expert panelists. Over the past two years, B School Disrupt has engaged nearly 1,000 alumni and guests, has featured 26 alumni start-up teams, 3 emcees, 4 expert panelists, and the work of more than 15 staff members across institutions.

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Most Innovative New Initiative
Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota
“LGBT+ Alumni Reunion”

In October 2017 Carlson hosted its first-ever LGBT+ Alumni Reunion. It was organized in partnership by an undergraduate student group, the Alumni Relations Office, major gift officers, and the undergraduate and MBA student affairs teams with the goal of creating a welcoming and inclusive space for a traditionally underrepresented and often marginalized population.  While the university and business school have student organizations that provide programming for LGBTQIA students, the Reunion was the first program specifically aimed at engaging alumni that identify as part of the community.  The reunion format provided a platform for students, alumni, staff and allies across programs to celebrate experiences, share stories, and foster relationships within the community, as well as continue conversations about how allies can support the advancement of issues impacting the student experience and business community.  More than 100 alumni, students, staff, faculty members, corporate partners and other allies attended the first reunion event.  It has been heralded by attendees, the school, and the university as an overwhelming success.  As a result, the Alumni Relations Office now has a growing list of alumni that identify as LGBTQIA.  A date has been chosen for next year’s reunion and the central University of Minnesota Alumni Association has been in touch about developing LGBTQIA alumni initiatives for the wider university community.

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Outstanding New Professional
Jessie Lehosky, Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University Jessie has been an outstanding addition to the Alumni Relations team at the Tepper School.  A skilled, professional meeting manager, her impact was immediately experienced as she led two consecutive years of record alumni reunion weekends.  Jessie also provided valuable leadership with regional alumni events and with Tepper’s outreach to its current MBA students. Her incredible work ethic and strong relationship skills combined with her attention to detail and technical abilities have allowed her to excel in her new field.  She delivers terrific service, listens, anticipates the needs of her constituents, and also takes action and makes decisions when necessary.  Additionally, she has demonstrated that she can take on new activities to further the mission of the Alumni Relations area. 
Most Improved Alumni Relations Initiative
Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder
“Alumni eNews Renovation”
Formerly, this school’s e-newsletter was sent quarterly and was antiquated, word-heavy and not mobile friendly. In the fall of 2016, the alumni e-newsletter went through a huge renovation, including improved content, design and a new layout. These updates were driven by what alumni wanted to hear and see. The updated e-newsletter launched monthly in January 2017. Many changes were implemented that resulted in significant increases in open rates. They use the alumni spotlight each month as an opportunity to either engage alumni who have not previously been engaged or steward alumni to celebrate their involvement with the school. They have seen open rates increase almost 5%, with a current open rate of almost 23% for 2017.

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Outstanding Partnership 
Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
“Reunion Gift Campaign”

For the 2017 All-Class Reunion, alumni celebrating their 1st-35th reunions achieved a 24% increase in giving from July 1, 2016 – May 30, 2017 over the prior fiscal/reunion year. This significant increase was achieved through partnerships between the Alumni Relations and Annual Giving teams, along with the central University Annual Giving office. Through the use of innovative tools and resources, each team introduced new ways to create the most proactive Reunion Giving campaign to date. Together, they facilitated meaningful connections between classmates through a multi-channel, peer-to-peer based strategy including using Class Giving Challenges, Online Crowdfunding-style Pages, Class Leadership, Resources, and Recognition, and Alumni Giving via Reunion Registration.

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Most Innovative New Initiative
Smith School of Business, University of Maryland
“Management in a Minute”

Management in a Minute is a video series featuring impressive alumni sharing insights and advice on how to be successful in business. The minute-long videos offer useful nuggets of practical advice and thoughtful discussion from C-level executives. This video series is innovative in how it provides value to both the school and the alumni. Management in a Minute has proven to be a great success. Many of the alumni were previously not engaged with the school, so this video series has become a great entry point. Alumni participants have gone on to become volunteers in other programs or helped establish a stronger recruiting relationship between their company and the school, and a few are involved in discussions about philanthropy.

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Outstanding New Professional
Sarah Bivens, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
Since joining the team in July 2016, Sarah has exemplified professionalism, intuitiveness, and excellent communication skills, and she has consistently exceeded the expectations of the department. Sarah consistently conducts herself with professionalism and is a pleasure to work with. She is an invaluable addition to the alumni relations communications team and has played a key role in improvements to alumni communication efforts.


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Outstanding Service to ABSAP
Tracy McCabe, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
Tracy is concluding six years of service on the ABSAP Advisory Council including two years as Council Chair from 2014 to 2016. Tracy’s commitment to ABSAP has been long-lasting and his efforts to see growth in the organization are evident through the establishment of ABSAP as a non-profit corporation and the development of a formal webinar series. As a Council member, Tracy’s leadership and willingness to innovate have been key to the organization’s success and growth. In addition to his service on the Council, Tracy has supported the organization as a conference presenter and by nominating members of his team at Booth for awards.
Most Improved Alumni Relations Initiative
McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin
“40 Hours for 40 Acres” Campaign

This annual giving campaign started in 2014 with the goal to inspire alumni to give back to the school during 40 hours in April. In 2015, the campaign raised $17,609 from 399 alumni. In 2016 changes were made that included a branded, mobile-responsive web page with live giving updates, and heavy social media and volunteer engagement strategies. The Alumni Relations team collaborated with students to schedule the legacy student campaigns to coincide with the campaign. At the end of the 40 hours, they raised $91,913 from 589 alumni, which was a 422 percent increase in gifts and a 48 percent increase in the number of donors over the previous year.

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Most Innovative New Initiative 
McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin
“Texas 12 Dinners” Program

This program brings together 12 strangers for dinner where alumni have an opportunity to meet fellow graduates they would not otherwise meet. The Alumni Relations team personalized the format of the first three events to best serve different alumni affinities. They secured hosts for the dinners at faculty members’ and alumni homes. They also had a different theme for each dinner. This new initiative succeeded in that it 1) connected alumni who would not otherwise meet each other, thus expanding their personal and professional networks, 2) helped alumni to view the school as a valuable resource for fostering connections, 3) expanded the career network of students and alumni, and 4) provided an industry connection for a faculty member.

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Outstanding Partnership 
Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University
“Change of Location” Project

The Alumni Relations Office, along with the Alumni Society Board, decided to take action and provide assistance to “change of location” transfer students by partnering with the Career Office. With so many diverse aspects of this demographic, it was vital to develop a portfolio of projects in order to launch this collaborative effort. In turn, these projects have created exciting engagement opportunities for alumni. Together the teams have been able to see significant progress in Change of Location initiatives in the past year alone, and they are confident that our continued collaborations will lead to results that we could not achieve independently.

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Outstanding New Professional 
Sandy Gelinas, Stern School of Business, New York University
Since joining her school’s team last summer, Sandy has made an exceptional impact across so many facets. She was quick to take on a tremendously challenging but important portfolio of work, and has made such a difference in the last 12 months across all aspects of this portfolio. Sandy fits the bill when thinking of an “ideal teammate.” She is always willing to jump in and help on a project, offer her thoughts or insight from past programs, or simply brainstorm a sticky situation. Not only is she impressive in the volume of work she accomplishes, but Sandy’s quality of work is just as striking.

Most Improved Alumni Relations Initiative 
Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

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Most Innovative New Initiative 
Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame

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Outstanding Partnership 
George Washington University School of Business

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Outstanding New Professional 
Jennifer MihalekBooth School of Business, University of Chicago

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Outstanding Service to ABSAP 
John SengenbergerTepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University

Most Improved Alumni Relations Initiative 
Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
for their Reunion Weekend

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Outstanding Partnership 
George Washington University School of Business
for their Capitol Advertising Program

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Outstanding New Professional 
Adrienne JarochGoizueta Business School, Emory University

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Outstanding Service to ABSAP
Janice HeadleyKelley School of Business, Indiana University

Most Improved Alumni Relations Initiative 
Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine
for their New Graduate Engagement Program

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Most Innovative Initiative 
George Washington University School of Business
for their Volunteer Stewardship Letter Process

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Outstanding Partnership 
Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
for their Tepper Alumni Magazine App

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Outstanding New Professional 
Megan RasmussenFoster School of Business, University of Washington

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Outstanding Service to ABSAP
Leslie Mille, College of Business, Florida State University

Most Improved Alumni Relations Initiative 
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
for their Industry Connections Event

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Most Innovative Initiative 
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
for their Future Alumni Leaders Banquet

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Outstanding New Professional (Co-Recipients)
Meghan BollensTepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
Mike SchmeckebierKelley School of Business, Indiana University

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