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Alumni Board Becomes New Leadership Council

"This is all about our alumni being able to connect to the College better," said Christine Lentine '07, Outreach Director of Kids' Food Basket and former president of the Aquinas Alumni Board. During her time leading the board, Lentine and others noticed the need for a more focused structure that would allow alumni to put their talents and energies to their best use. Thus, the group became the new Alumni Association Leadership Council, and seeks to better engage alumni with their alma matter.

"We felt like there were two distinct ways that alumni wanted to give," said Lentine. These two paths were focused on networking and planning, and volunteering at events. With this split focus, the board struggled to use its time efficiently while still allowing board members to delve into their passions. Thus, instead of holding meetings in which every board member would attend, Lentine and company decided to divide the board into two subgroups: an Alumni Association Advisory Board and Alumni Association Ambassadors.

Advisors, said Emma Powell MM '10, current present of the Alumni Association Leadership Council, express a desire to "really want to be part of the plan." These council members will discuss the impact of College plans on the 18,000 alumni throughout the world, and utilize their own personal contacts to tap into their voices. "It would give the alumni a stronger, deeper, more invested voice," said Powell. Utilizing social media and personal conversations, advisors commit to an intentional connection with their fellow alumni to ensure that these past students are being heard. This focus group meets six times per year; a quarterly advisory meeting and two social events with the entire Leadership Council.

Ambassadors, in contrast, focus their energy on volunteering at specific events. These members have a few hours a month to invest in a particular event that peaks their interest and commits to five events per academic year. Volunteers may be seen at sporting events or at the annual Homecoming tent. This group meets twice a year with the entire Leadership Council.

In addition to creating the two distinct strategies for the council and allowing for more frequent meetings, the executive leadership of the group was also transformed. Previously, the president of the alumni board would serve for only two years, without a transitional period to learn the various processes of the board and of the College. Now, the overall process for the presidency is three years, in which the nominated and accepted president would spend one year as president elect, one year as president, and one year as outgoing president, lending his or her expertise to the new head of the council. "As alumni, we just wanted to have a more consistent message," said Powell, who explained that committing to a three year term with two other executive leaders allows for the group to maintain a focused set of priorities. Instead of the "swinging pendulum" in executive focus, she said, the council would maintain a concise voice.

Lastly, the council decided to better engage with its support staff, utilizing Brigid Avery, who has served as the Executive Director for many years, Janine Guyeskey '08, Manager of Advancement Relations & Engagement, who will assist with events and ambassadors, and Kate Davis, Senior Director of Advancement, who will support at the executive level.

This new council, as well as Emma Powell's presidency, began on July 1, 2014, with Robert Wolford as president elect, and is still finalizing its by-laws and working out the kinks. However, its leadership is confident that this new direction will better serve its alumni. "It's about alumni connecting with Aquinas," said Lentine. In addition, "We would absolutely welcome any interest," said Powell. If you are interested in becoming part of the new Alumni Leadership Council, send your resume and a letter of intent to Brigid Avery '01, Executive Director, at brigid.avery@aquinas.edu by August 15. The letter should answer the question, "In what ways are you a 'Faithful Saint'?"