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Feature

Pari Beyzavi.

U alum and psychologist Pari Beyzavi works to help refugees adjust to life in a new country. To read her story, along with those of other alums, see the "Connecting With Our Alumni" Web site.

Surveying the alumni landscape

No doubt about it: U alumni are having a major impact, both at home and abroad

by Steve Anderson

From M, fall 2006

Perhaps it's appropriate that the economic footprint of the University of Minnesota is of Paul Bunyan-size proportions.

Data collected from the recent "Connecting With Our Alumni" survey reveal that U graduates play a major role in the economic vibrancy of their communities. It's estimated that survey respondents have started 19,000 companies that employ some 1.1 million workers in all 50 states and in 63 foreign countries. An impressive 86 percent of those businesses are still operating, with projected annual revenues of $230 billion.

"These numbers confirm what we've always suspected: That the University is a critical source of human capital--the talented and educated people who make our region an attractive place to do business and drive our economy," says U president Robert Bruininks.

Alumni fast facts

>1 in 10 has received a national or international award such as a Fulbright or Emmy.

>1 in 14 has served in elected office.

>37 percent have led charity organizations.

>23 percent have served on for- and non-profit boards.

>1,154 own patents, including eight who own more than 200.

>In Minnesota, alumni:

created 10,000 companies

provided 500,000 jobs

produced annual revenues of $100 billion.

Note: Data reflect respondents to 2006 alumni survey only.

Even with the national and global reach of alumni, the largest impact of U grads is felt in Minnesota, according to Phil Pardey, Ph.D. '86, an applied economist who teaches at the U. Other states and other countries profit from the activity of U grads, says Parday, whho sits on a committee to study the U's economic impact. "But a good deal of the benefits accrue to Minnesota in the form of strong job growth, higher than otherwise incomes, and stimulating local business formation and performance," he says.

Survey results back up Pardey's claim. Projections show that survey participants started 10,000 Minnesota companies, employing 500,000 workers. It's estimated that these businesses generate $100 billion in annual revenues.

First of its kind "Connecting With Our Alumni" was the first comprehensive survey of grads from all University campuses. More than 300,000 alumni received the survey, which ran from January to May of this year. Graduates of the last three years were not sent "Connecting With Our Alumni" because they had recently received a separate survey to gauge satisfaction with the U.

The 51,133 responses to "Connecting With Our Alumni" were combined with those from similar surveys administered independently by the Carlson School (2005) and Institute of Technology (2004). The total number of alumni surveyed was around 385,000, of which 19 percent responded.

Key to growth Because the University's four campuses educate a high percentage of college and professional students, and because the U is also the state's flagship research university, Pardey believes it is well-positioned to continue driving the state's economy. "Investing in a skilled labor force and the research required to foster productivity improvements is the key to long-run economic growth," says Pardey.

A recent analysis by another University applied economist, Paul Glewwe, and grad student Amy Damon points to specific public benefits of an educated workforce like the one fueled by U alumni in Minnesota. One surprising discovery is that individuals who live in areas with higher levels of educated people tend to have higher wages. In addition, their study finds that a college-educated populace returns more money to public coffers by paying higher income taxes and more sales taxes, and through reduced use of public assistance programs.

With thousands of U alumni graduating each year and well over 400,000 already out in the world, the impact revealed by future alumni surveys might make even Babe the Blue Ox feel small.

For more findings on the survey, see the "Connecting With Our Alumni" Web site.