History of ACSN

Alumni career services originated on a small scale in the 1990s. By 2003, there were approximately 10 programs in the U.S. The field gained more traction in the recession of the early 2000s when alumni began returning to their alma maters for career help. Student-facing teams were already taxed and didn’t have the bandwidth to add alumni to their portfolios. Alumni relations offices, alumni associations, and advancement/development saw an opportunity for engagement in a time when traditional social engagement was waning.  In response, colleges and universities began offering a range of services to their alumni, viewing this as an opportunity for engagement. They typically launched these efforts with few resources, most often one, or a portion of one, staff person.

In 2004, a small group of professionals began a listserv, “AlumniCS” and held monthly conference calls to discuss their work. The group met for the first time at the University of Chicago. Reciprocity agreements were the first form of collaboration. Over time those disappeared and technology developed that allowed professionals to better serve their geographically dispersed alumni. Alumni career services professionals were early adopters of many resources that are now common-place throughout career services including tele-coaching, webinars, and podcasts. Listservs were ultimately replaced by LinkedIn groups, which became the basis of many programs across the country, especially when other resources were limited.

Everyone saw the value of meeting in-person to share best practices and concluded an annual conference was appropriate. In 2008, the Alumni Career Services Network (ACSN) was proposed and adopted as a name, the group established By-Laws and voted to become a 501(c)(6) organization.

In 2018, ASCN hosted its first virtual Meet-up. Members gathered in seven locations around the country for a speaker presentation followed by networking and sharing best practices. Also in 2018, ACSN celebrated its 13th annual conference in Nashville. More than 140 professionals and representatives of 10 vendors attended. Attendees hailed from all parts of the United States, Canda, Europe, Great Britain, and Australia. The conference grew from a few hours to two and a half days and featured keynote speakers, breakout sessions, networking events, vendors and a corporate partner summit. 

As ACSN’s operational and administrative needs grew increasingly complex, the board contracted with an organizational development firm, Riggs Enterprise, in 2019. In early 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic struck. Members immediately faced reduced budgets, frozen travel plans, and significant disruption to the workforce and operations. As the workforce adapted to remote work, distance learning and social distancing, ACSN immediately pivoted operations, both individually and as an association, and developed relevant virtual programming. The 2020 and 2021 conferences successfully pivoted to virtual formats, with contracts for an in-person conference in San Diego, CA postponed to 2022. Another significant development in 2020 was the board’s adoption of a new structure that more closely represented the association’s changing needs; moving from VP/AVP roles to Committee Chairs. 

As ACSN grows, the elected board strives to find ways to better serve our members and give them more opportunities to connect. This is the hallmark of ACSN. This annual report is the first step on a journey to achieve the ACSN mission to “support and enhance the development of alumni career services practitioners by providing meaningful opportunities for professional growth and networking while demonstrating the value of alumni career services to key stakeholders.”