A day in the life of the Data Management Unit in the research section of the Development & Alumni Department

13 March 2009

Cape Town

The office, situated in the Old Administration Building, is staffed by Mfundo Nyithana and Amanda Williams. To do their job you need to be a logical thinker, be task-driven - and be patient.

What does the unit do on a day-to-day basis?

The unit maintains contact with alumni. This often means finding a 'lost' alumnus on the internet or linking family members to form a history of learning at UCT. They also maintain the Kidz Alumni database. Any updated detail goes to Nyithana who captures the data, gleaned from within the university or via post and the website. Williams handles the bulk email process, using the database to contact, invite and inform alumni about events, newsletters and lectures.

What are the challenges facing the unit?

The main challenge is keeping up with alumni. About 30% move every three to five years. Not all alumni have access to email, and sometimes the search extends far and wide, with Nyithana and Williams going to a lot of trouble to trace former students. Part of staying in touch means they must monitor the social networking landscape. The duo must also stay abreast of technology changes on the Kidz Alumni database.

What are the highs and lows of the job?

Some of the highs are bringing alumni together for events or reunions. They liaise with alumni convenors in the UK, the US and Canada about upcoming events, and use the bulk email process to keep national and international alumni informed of faculty events and news. They invite alumni to lectures, talks, breakfasts and dinners. "We have a sense of achievement when we locate alumni using the internet, the databases or other sources," Williams said. Lows are when the communiqués (bulk emails or post) to alumni are returned for processing. "We have to process each and every piece of mail, and update the Kidz Alumni database," said Nyithana.

What is the strangest thing to have happened?

There was the time a widower wanted to get in touch with a former classmate, wanting to know if she was interested in marrying him, as she had been his sweetheart at UCT. "To this day we do not know the outcome!" Nyithana said.

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