Feeling Lonely? Join Us at a Lehigh Event

A letter from Jennifer Cunningham, assistant vice president for Alumni Relations

Collage of Lehigh alumni at university-sponsored events

A note from Jennifer Cunningham, assistant vice president for Alumni Relations:

Since the printing and distribution of the Spring 2020 Bulletin, the COVID-19 pandemic has reached global concern. Accordingly, we have cancelled or postponed alumni events through May, and we’ll continue to evaluate our summer schedule as time goes on.

In the meantime, we’ve curated a page listing all the ways you can connect with Lehigh online. I hope you’ll stay engaged, and we look forward to seeing you in person soon!

As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions. You can reach me at jlc516@lehigh.edu or follow me on Twitter @jenlynham.


Class Notes are dead! Reunion is dead! Career networking is dead! Face-to-face meetings are dead! Phone conversations are dead! These have all been headlines in the Alumni Relations profession throughout the last decade, as we’ve watched alumni congregating and connecting on digital and social media platforms. Statistics show that the average American spends more than two hours per day on social media and more than five hours on their phone.

As a result, most alumni offices have hired directors of social media, made the case for digital gift and engagement officers and highlighted Facebook and Instagram in our outreach strategies. A benefit to this digital engagement is that it’s very efficient. 200+ likes on Facebook for one post. 100+ registrants for a Mountain Talk webinar. 400+ for The Rally and Reunion livestreams. On the flip side, taking a faculty member to speak at an event, traveling to host a dinner for 12, meeting volunteers for coffee, hosting a tailgate at an away game—those take more resources for fewer individual interactions with alumni.

Given all that, it would be easy for us to proclaim that “Events are dead!” and move our engagement efforts online. After all, you can Skype with a bunch of friends instead of coming to Reunion. You can stay home and message alumni in your industry on LinkedIn. You can watch the Mountain Hawks cream the competition from your living room.

But here’s something I can’t stop thinking about. While digital connections have their place, the more we rely on them for social connections, the more lonely we become. According to an article in Psychology Today, loneliness is the newest health epidemic in America, affecting up to 47% of adults. That’s significant because, health- Feeling Lonely? Join Us at a Lehigh Event wise, loneliness is as risky as obesity and smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of early mortality. The UK recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness. Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is studying loneliness as it relates to the workplace.

What have they found that combats loneliness? Putting down your device. Turning off your screens. Gathering with others, face to face. Meeting new people. Connecting with familiar friends. Attending Lehigh events. Getting involved in a Lehigh volunteer activity. OK, those last two aren’t specifically cited in any scientific research—I’m extrapolating. My point is that the purpose of Alumni Relations is to connect you to each other and to connect you back to Lehigh. If we can also help combat loneliness through the 250 in-person events we do every year, that adds a whole new layer to our purpose and a whole new reason for you to come.

Last year, nearly 5,000 alumni attended at least one event. I’d love to see you again or greet you as a first-timer. Join us! Email me at jlc516@lehigh.edu and let me know what you’d like to see in your area.

Jennifer Cunningham
Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations

Email at Jennifer.Cunningham@lehigh.edu

P.S. The annual meeting of the Lehigh University Alumni Association will be held on Friday, June 5, on campus. Exact time and location to be announced via the Lehigh Reunion website.

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