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Online students finding forever home with Wildcats Forever

Wildcat Forever

There’s something about wearing K-State purple that makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger.

That’s why the Kansas State University Alumni Association created the Wildcats Forever program for current students. Discounts to local businesses in Manhattan, events, K-State swag and other benefits help students feel like they are a part of the university and larger Wildcat community.

The program has always been available to on-campus and online students, but with the help of Melinda Sinn, alumni relations coordinator for Global Campus, and some Global Campus alumni, online students can now find even more value in the program than before.

Sinn discovered that online students were joining the program, but many were unable to reach campus to pick up their mug and t-shirt, so she asked the Alumni Association for the names of the distance education students that join every year. Now Sinn takes it upon herself to supplement the program with some added benefits from Global Campus.

“They can still participate in what the Alumni Association does but we do some extra things for them,” Sinn said. “I try to communicate with them about three times a semester. At the beginning, we send some K-State swag and wish them luck on the semester. We check in mid-semester, too. And before finals I send them something to help them get through.”

Crystal Ritz, who is currently studying data analytics with a minor in management, said joining the program should be “a no-brainer” for fellow Global Campus students because it will make them feel more connected to the university.

“We usually get a glass and t-shirt annually for continuing to be a member. So every time I open the cupboard I am reminded of being a K-State student,” Ritz said. “I also receive mail from Melinda, with letters of encouragement and small gifts to help me push on through the semester.”

About 15 to 25 online students join the program each year and Sinn knows they appreciate the personal touch and support she provides.

“I get a lot of positive feedback like, ‘This came at a rough time and it lets me know that K-State really cares,’” Sinn said.

Ritz, who recently retired from the military and now lives in Manhattan, shares that sentiment.

“I distinctly remember saying to my wife one day that I enjoy getting little letters from Melinda because it makes me feel more connected to K-State, like someone hasn’t forgotten the group of people who want to pursue their education through K-State, just are not able to attend on campus,” Ritz said.

Another student who has benefited from the program is Danielle Lautt, from Alta Vista, Kansas, who is studying management while raising two boys.

“As an online student that has no involvement on campus, it can be easy to get lost as just a name on a screen,” said Lautt. “With the regular gifts and personal notes I receive, I feel connected, and that I have a reliable resource to be there if I need something.”

Lautt said that her involvement in the Wildcats Forever program has helped her feel supported through her studies.

“Wildcats Forever has been a true asset over the past year, giving me more support and keeping me connected with K-State, and giving me good resources to use while pursuing my degree,” Lautt said.

When making plans for how she can benefit online students through this program, Sinn often turns to Global Campus alumni to help supplement her efforts.

“Some alumni have provided products from their companies. Some sponsor K-State swag or come up with other ways to support current students. I always give credit to the alumni who are involved.”

Alumni she has worked with have been enthusiastic about the idea. “Someone will say, ‘I wish they did that when I was a student.’

“We’re getting more alumni involved in participating and giving back in this way,” Sinn said. “When we first started, we were doing it all through Global Campus and it was pretty limited, but because I’m getting alumni involved through products or financial support, I’m able to do a lot more to support current students.”

If you’re a Global Campus student or alumni, consider joining Wildcats Forever. If you would like to support Global Campus students through the Wildcats Forever program, or in any other way, contact Melinda Sinn, sinnpio@k-state.edu.