The Southern Utah University Alumni Association took an extra step to bridge the gap between alumni and current students through a recently created program known as the Tradition Keeper Initiative.
The Student Alumni Association hosts Tradition Keeper events to encourage students to be excited about and participate in university traditions.
The association is composed of current students, like tradition chair Bayli Alexander and SAA President Brock Bleak who help connect students to SUU so that they’ll want to stay involved once they graduate.
“We have prizes as students complete traditions including hydro stickers, exclusive t-shirts, a mini model of the bell tower, etc.,” Alexander said. “We also have the cutest tracker cards that students can fit in their wallets. They can get those at any of our events or in the Alumni Office.”
The SAA has hosted several Tradition Keeper events throughout the school year, which included a kick-off event where students took pictures with Gunther the Rock, a rock located outside of the SUU library that different clubs and organizations can paint to advertise for events or show school spirit.
Students could also participate in a tradition on Halloween, where students went on ghost tours around campus and waited for the ghost of Virginia to appear in Old Main while drinking hot chocolate.
According to Alexander, the SAA also put up a booth at the Sheep Parade, where they offered popsicles, soda and photo opportunities so students could check that tradition off their list.
Most recently, on Feb. 24, the SAA held a Dino-mite event where students were encouraged to take pictures with a dinosaur in the Geoscience Building on campus. One of the prizes included an “all-inclusive trip for four to Dinosaur Land — including river rafting, hotel and food.”
Once a week, on Red Fridays, Alexander says that the association encourages students to wear red by handing out “goodies” like cans of Mountain Dew.
Myndee Larsen, the president of the National Alumni Council and alumna of SUU, explained that the council got the idea for the tradition keeper program when she and Ron Cardon, the director of alumni relations, attended a Big Sky Conference event for alumni directors and presidents of alumni councils.
“One of the schools had a similar tradition keeper program and I was looking through their list and thought, ‘our traditions are so much better and so much more fun, and why aren’t we doing this and celebrating it?’” Larsen said.
Larsen hoped that by putting together the Tradition Keeper initiative for students, they would be more encouraged to participate in events in order to come away with an even more positive experience at SUU.
“We’ve been trying to come up with initiatives that can connect alumni, students and future students to help SUU grow and become a hotspot,” Larsen said. “When we took it back to the alumni council, we were brainstorming and thought, ‘This is such a unique place with so many different opportunities to engage everybody in a bunch of different ways.’”According to Alexander, the Tradition Keeper program is overseen by the SAA and is based around 50 SUU traditions that students will complete in their time as a student here, such as attending Casino Night or voting in Southern Utah University Student Association elections.
The program is also open to community members and alumni, to whom Alexander says they are trying to cater to virtually during the pandemic.
“We act as a liaison for students but we are an appendage of the Alumni Offices so we get to work with alumni and community members as well,” Alexander said. “We always have openings in our team for any student that wants to get involved and have a great time.”
To participate in the Tradition Keeper initiative, students participate in upcoming events. They then can take a picture and post about the events with the hashtag #SUUTradition. Once students have posted, they can upload their photos to suu.edu/traditionkeeper, come into the Alumni Office in the Hunter Conference Center, or email the photos to firstname.lastname@example.org to check their traditions off.
Whether serving as a National Alumni Council like Larsen or as a member of the SAA like Alexander, both hope to accentuate the memorable experiences that students and alumni have and can still experience at SUU and bridge the gap between students and alumni.
“It was really important that we celebrate this and that we try to sell SUU as an experience that, yeah, you’re going to get an amazing education, but you’re going to come away with unique experiences that you just can’t get anywhere else,” Larsen said.
For more information on Tradition Keeper or the SAA, visit suu.edu.
Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos courtesy of Bayli Alexander