University of Alberta alumni have a tremendous impact on the economy and society. We illustrate that in every issue of New Trail with stories of alumni. Now a groundbreaking study based on a survey of alumni has put some numbers to the stories — and those numbers are eye-opening.
The U of A’s quarter-million living alumni have founded 70,258 organizations around the world, the study estimates, creating more than 1.5 million jobs and generating annual revenues of $348.5 billion. That’s greater than the annual GDP of Alberta. Talk about impact.
U of A alumni are clearly innovators and creators. More than 30 per cent of respondents have published peer-reviewed work, 16 per cent have created literary or artistic works for sale, 24 per cent have created a new product, service or business model and 4.6 per cent have patented a new product or method.
The study also noted a characteristic of our alumni: they have a strong drive to make the world a better place. Of the organizations founded by alumni, more than one-third have a cultural, environmental or social mission. Half of those are non-profit. More than 77 per cent of alumni have volunteered locally, and 17 per cent have volunteered outside Canada.
Clearly, the university’s role as envisioned by its first president, Henry Marshall Tory, is embodied in its alumni. Tory charged the university community and future generations to remember that a university degree must have an impact beyond academia. “The uplifting of the whole people shall be [a university’s] final goal,” he said.
His vision has withstood a century of progress and growth, and even alumni who aren’t familiar with the phrase have applied the spirit of this promise to their lives and careers.
The study, Uplifting the Whole People: The Impact of University of Alberta Alumni Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship by U of A professors Tony Briggs, ’95 BSc(Hons), and Jennifer Jennings, is a landmark in Canadian higher education. Based on a 2012 survey of U of A alumni, it’s the first of its kind in Canada, and it’s the first anywhere that examines not only the economic impact of a university through its alumni entrepreneurs but also their impact in non-profit and social, environmental and cultural realms.
The study is innovative in another way. It explores the impact of the U of A experience — at university and later in life — and delves into questions about happiness and well-being.
A key finding is the role of faculty. When asked which U of A experience had the greatest impact on them, alumni most often mentioned their professors, commenting repeatedly on how much they inspired, encouraged and guided them.
Thanks to the more than 11,000 of you who responded to the survey, we have a clearer picture of the impact of U of A alumni throughout the world. The results also tell the story of you. Where you go after university. What experience at university affected you most. Where your lives have taken you.
We share this story in four parts. First we look at Who You Are, an examination of where alumni live and what they’re doing. Part II, Uplifting the Whole People, looks at how U of A alumni are having an impact on the world around them. Part III is Uplifting the Whole Person, where we share stories of what the university did for you as students, and as alumni.
In the final section, you will meet nine Impact Makers who represent the scope and reach of U of A alumni across the globe.
We’re excited to share the findings with you and introduce you to your fellow alumni.