King's US alumni - a very special relationship

Andrew Toney

Andrew Toney, International Alumni Officer at King’s, explains how he made the transition from Atlanta, Georgia to London, what he feels are the differences between US universities and those in the UK, and why working with King’s alumni is so much fun.

An American in London...

I came to King’s last October from Atlanta, GA, after completing a graduate degree at Emory University and working for a bit in alumni relations there, and fundraising for a disability charity in Georgia. Emory’s university and medical functions sit very closely side by side, which in a lot of ways makes it very comparable to King’s, as well as the fact that it doesn’t have an American football team!

In the Alumni Office at King’s, I’m part of a team of three people who engage with the international alumni community. We provide support to a network of nearly 100 alumni volunteer leaders around the world, who help keep alumni connected to one another, and to King’s. I deliver our flagship alumni events in the US and Asia – as well as overseeing our alumni activity in Europe and managing King’s Global Duel Day celebration each spring.

A special relationship

At King's, we have a very strong presence with our US alumni, bolstered by a long-standing special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. This special relationship is evident in Bush House, the most recently-acquired building on King’s campus, where one might notice the inscription above its doors: “To the friendship of English-speaking peoples.” Bush House has long been understood to symbolise Anglo-American friendship.

As an international university, King’s also holds a number of key partnerships with institutions across the US, including Arizona State University, Georgetown University, Columbia University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and many others. Since 2012, King’s also has a North American office in Alexandria, Virginia, providing resources for students who wish to attend King’s.

The alumni community

It’s a well-known fact that university alumni communities tend to be very strong in the US – the culture of college graduates in the US is such that they tend to retain their connections to universities. These ties are usually facilitated by affiliation with a prominent university sports programme, membership in fraternities and sororities, or the close-knit layout of many US university campuses.

We have over 7,500 King’s alumni living across the States. These alumni have a similarly strong affiliation to King’s, but for a unique and powerful set of reasons. Many alumni remember the magic of studying at King’s in the heart of London, reading Shakespeare while also walking in the places where he in fact stood, studying politics in classrooms less than a mile from Whitehall, or walking across the quad by Somerset House where royals once lived... King’s is at the very centre of London, both physically and in terms of influence. Because of this, alumni memories of university and London life are inextricably bound together.

What makes my job so much fun

Since 2005, King’s Alumni Office has made annual trips to the US to strengthen our connections with the swiftly-growing alumni community there. As part of these trips, we have organised flagship alumni events featuring alumni and faculty speakers in San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Washington, DC.

There are active alumni committees in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington DC and International Alumni Leaders in many other states, including Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, and elsewhere.

Each summer, we also hold a series of King’s Connect mentoring events in the US, which are geared towards helping younger alumni meet potential mentors, gain career guidance, and increase their networks.

I continue to be surprised by how much alumni events mean to our US alumni. Recently, a US alumna drove over 600 miles round-trip just to attend an alumni drinks event! Her enthusiasm is reflected regularly in the US-based alumni we get to meet, and that’s part of what makes this job so much fun.

As we move into Bush House and continue to see growing engagement amongst future students and alumni in the US, we are confident our close relationship with our King’s community there will only increase!

Finally, watch Karin Fischer from Chronicle, the leading US publication for Higher Education, talks to President and Principal Ed Byrne about how deeper collaboration across borders could shake up the international hierarchy of great institutions.