Syracuse University Magazine

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Matthew Manfra

Alumni Connections

Growing up in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, Matthew Manfra was an enthusiastic SU basketball fan, and over the years he has had many opportunities to watch the team play in several cities around the country. Now that Manfra is Syracuse University’s new assistant vice president for alumni engagement, he is thrilled he can experience the Orange spirit in person on the home court. “Going through SU’s extensive search process, I had an opportunity to meet many alumni and members of the campus community who make Syracuse University such a special place,” Manfra says. “The people are the real reason I’m here.”

In addition to creating and implementing alumni relations’ initiatives to increase participation and volunteerism, Manfra oversees the Fund for Syracuse—the University’s annual giving program—to advance philanthropy among students and alumni. This is the first time the two programs have been brought together under one umbrella. “I see annual giving and alumni relations as two of the most effective ways to reach our graduates,” Manfra says. “I believe engagement with alumni needs to be from cradle to grave, and between both of these operations, we’re connecting with a lot of people.”

Manfra’s first alumni relations job was at Trenton State College—now known as the College of New Jersey—where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1999. As student body president, he had full access to faculty, staff, donors, and alumni, and he discovered early on that he had an affinity for working with alumni and donors. “Immediately upon graduation, I served on my college’s alumni association executive board, so I saw alumni relations firsthand as a volunteer,” says Manfra, who also coordinated the college’s student ambassador program and on-campus recruitment in the admissions office. “I left the board when I became the alumni affairs director.”

After three years in admissions, two years in alumni relations, and four years in human resources—all at his alma mater—Manfra joined Rutgers University as director of regional clubs and then served as director of outreach programs in the alumni relations department. Four years later, he headed west to the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), where he oversaw the alumni relations program and provided leadership to the university’s alumni association board of directors. “My focus at UNC was on developing a strategic and sustainable alumni association,” Manfra says. “We modernized the program and concentrated on young alumni and regional events, which is the same emphasis as at SU. If we’re going to do our job right, we have to keep up with the changes in technology and figure out how our students, alumni, and donors are engaging now—on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn—and be well integrated into their social media network.”

Manfra says Syracuse University does an amazing job of making people feel part of the family and looks forward to finding out why so many alumni bleed Orange, attend events, volunteer their time, talent, and resources, and stay connected to their alma mater years after graduation. “I just started my new role in January, so I’m in a listening phase right now,” Manfra says. “But I’m looking forward to getting on the road to meet our alumni outside of the Syracuse area. It’s my nature to want to meet them all in my first month on the job, but that’s impossible. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”       —Christine Yackel



Photo by Steve Sartori