The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

6 Ways to Keep Your Retirees Engaged

Retired staff and faculty are often an untapped resource for colleges and universities. While many retirees would like to stay connected and engaged — with their colleagues, with students, with the campus community as a whole — in the absence of an official campus retiree organization, they just aren’t sure how to do so.

However, as Trudy Fernandez, director of human resources and head of the retiree association at Florida International University, says, “Higher education institutions are in a unique position to engage their retirees through academic, social and philanthropic opportunities.”

Although structured, funded, staffed on-campus retiree organizations are growing in popularity (the Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education (AROHE) spearheads the current movement advocating for retiree engagement at colleges and universities), there are ways an institution without a formal retiree organization can tap into the experience and expertise of its retirees. Says Fernandez, who also serves as president-elect of AROHE, “Departments, schools and other existing institutional organizations can engage retired staff and faculty in a number of ways.”

Here are some suggestions:

  • Volunteer/service programs. Retirees often look for opportunities to help their alma mater on an occasional basis. Consider offering volunteer or service opportunities to engage retirees at their leisure — helping with commencement ceremonies, serving on a diversity committee, or mentoring students are just a few great ideas to engage them.
  • Fundraising. Opportunities to raise funds for scholarships, local community agencies or an internal capital campaign are plentiful. Many retirees welcome the chance to help with these types of fundraising endeavors.
  • Educational workshops. Continue to invite your retirees to lecture series and professional development programs that are open to the public, especially if they are free. If your state offers the means to audit classes, make sure your retirees know about that as well.
  • Social programs. Consider holding special events or programs dedicated just to retirees, such as an annual retiree reunion or a special recognition event.
  • Consultants/advisors. Engage your retirees as expert speakers or invite them to serve in committee roles that may require a subject matter expert — after all, they are experts in their fields!
  • Living history/oral projects. Many universities develop recorded interviews for promotional videos about the university or for a living history project about a specific subject. Always invite your retirees to participate in such projects, as they may be able to tell the story from a unique perspective.

“Many retirees are more than willing to stay connected and engaged with their organizations,” says Fernandez. “They’re simply waiting to be asked.”

To learn how to start a retiree or emeriti organization on your campus, even with a zero-based budget, visit the AROHE website.