The Commission on the Relationship Between the College and the Alumnae Association

Introduction

The Trustees of Mount Holyoke College formed the Commission on the Relationship Between the College and the Alumnae Association at their meeting of February 2016, appointing the then-president of the College, Lynn Pasquerella ’80, and the president of the Alumnae Association, Marcia Brumit Kropf ’67, as cochairs.

Establishing a commission grew out of the College’s Strategic Planning Committee, formed in fall 2015, which included faculty, staff, students, and trustees, in order to begin the work on The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2021. The Strategic Planning Committee worked throughout the academic year to identify a number of core priorities and establish four working groups charged with reviewing current practices and developing recommendations for bold, yet realistic, change. The Collaborative Governance working group advised that a commission be formed to design a collaborative governance model that redefines how the work of alumnae relations is done on campus, a model that truly enables the College and the Association to have a more unified approach in engaging its large and diverse alumnae constituency.

Recommendations

On June 30, 2016, the Commission recommended an ambitious but realistic set of collaborative processes geared toward specific outcomes, including increased efficiency and reduced expenses.

The Commission members agreed that the path with the most promise of immediate and sustainable success is to start with collaborative practices and then assess and adjust the structures that would enable such practices to continue. The Commission emphasized work that will eliminate existing information silos, thereby increasing cooperation and communication across groups interacting with alumnae; share resources and talent; and show a unified, consistent outward face to alumnae.

The following recommendations were approved by the College’s Board of Trustees and the Alumnae Association Board of Directors. Since July, 2016, more than 60 members of the campus community have actively engaged in Commission working groups, resulting in significant progress across the board.

1. Institutionalize an alumnae relations group that includes two task forces:

    1. Volunteer Hub Task Force
    2. Data Management and Governance Task Force

Current Progress

  • Alumnae Relations Group
    A group of seventeen leaders from across campus convened to formalize an Alumnae Relations Group, led by Nancy Bellows Perez ’76, interim executive director of the Alumnae Association. They meet monthly to focus on how the College can intentionally engage alumnae across divisions to optimize the alumnae experience. At the recommendation of the group, the Alumnae Association will formalize a volunteer coordinator role, which will have broad oversight of volunteer recruitment, stewardship, communications, and training across divisions. In addition, the group has focused on piloting an alumnae mentoring program as well as re-imagining alumnae symposia.
  • Volunteer Hub
    A working group of staff from across the College is in the process of implementing a new online volunteer resource space (previously called the Volunteer Hub), which will provide alumnae volunteers for the offices of Admission, Advancement, and the Alumnae Association a central portal where they can access tools, reports, and resources to support their work on behalf of Mount Holyoke. Rollout will begin in early 2018 to Advancement and the Alumnae Association, followed by Admission in early spring. Funding for this initial phase of work was shared by the College and the Alumnae Association Founder’s Fund.
  • Data Management
    A Boston-based data and operations consultant spent the summer conducting interviews with staff from across campus and has delivered a preliminary report to help strategize Mount Holyoke’s use of alumnae-focused technology, data, and processes to achieve a system that promotes continuous improvement and strengthens alumnae engagement. The report will be finalized on November 1, and will include a recommended implementation of both short- and long-term tactics phased over the next 18 months. Funding for this phase of the project was shared by Advancement and the Alumnae Association Founder’s Fund.

2. Formalize an alumnae marketing and communications group

Current Progress

The eight-person Alumnae Marketing and Communications Working Group completed a communications and campaign audit across College divisions and submitted a set of foundational recommendations to break down barriers, paving the way for a comprehensive communications strategy. As a start, the College’s Gates and the Alumnae Association’s Laurel Chain e-newsletters were combined, branding has been aligned, and shared processes have begun to be implemented. All of this serves as a strong foundation for a more comprehensive communications strategy once the new vice president of communications is hired.

3. Create and implement a shared calendar of events

Current Progress

On- and off-campus events for faculty, students, staff, and alumnae have been consolidated into a central calendar where our community can find Mount Holyoke events in one place. Soon to follow are the full range of athletic events. Now, when you click on the “calendar” button on the Alumnae Association’s website you are directed to the College's calendar where Alumnae Association, class, and club events are included. In addition, the Office of Spiritual Life generously contributed their time to include a full calendar of religious holidays.

4. Create an events management center at the College

Current Progress

The working group has inventoried tasks involved in events both on- and off-campus and identified areas for improvement. The group has implemented checklists for events and is beginning to document governing policies and procedures around event planning on campus. The group will soon hold a half-day retreat to do a deep dive on events management, coordinate with the master calendar team, and determine the appropriate next steps.

5. Move forward with more integrated systems as well as top-level collaborative governance

Many collaborative and foundational practices are already underway. The recommendations of the Commission will build upon these, providing a more robust framework for endorsement, oversight, and successful implementation.

Current Progress

On October 14, 2017, the Board of Trustees of Mount Holyoke College and the Board of Directors of the Alumnae Association approved a new, ten-year agreement based on the work that has been done as part of the Commission. The agreement honors essential tenets in which the Alumnae Association operates independently while ensuring the long-term success of the College and its alumnae.

Per the recommendations of the Commission to move forward with more integrated systems, the College will provide human resource and financial management services for the Alumnae Association. The Association will now participate in the College’s annual planning and budgeting process, which was successfully piloted for fiscal year 2018 using a financial model used by many of the centers at the College. In addition, Alumnae Association staff will become College employees and the Alumnae Association’s executive director (ED) will be treated as a divisional manager within the College’s organizational structure, reporting to the college president. The ED already participates in weekly officers’ meetings and retreats. However, the ED will continue to be selected and supervised by its board and in turn will hire and manage Alumnae Association employees.

Implementation

The operational plans will be overseen by an implementation team comprised of the:  

  • Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer of the College
  • Vice President for Advancement at the College
  • Vice President for Communications and Marketing at the College
  • Executive Director of the Alumnae Association.

This implementation team, their respective department staff members, and additional staff will be responsible for design and execution of specific plans. The implementation team will report to the President of the College, the President of the Alumnae Association, and a College trustee. This group will in turn report on a quarterly basis to the College’s Board of Trustees and the Alumnae Association Board of Directors.

Periodically, the College and the Alumnae Association will share their progress with alumnae, volunteers, faculty, and staff.

Timeline

Each recommendation will follow its own unique implementation timeline (from six to 24 months) in order to develop enhanced or new collaborative structures.

Charge to the Commission

To explore the feasibility of alternative structures for collaboration that fit the unique needs of Mount Holyoke. Outcomes of the commission should include a process for developing a shared mission and joint decision-making on strategy, reporting structures, and opportunities to prioritize and coordinate activities.

Members of the Commission

  • Lynn C. Pasquerella ’80, the then-president, Mount Holyoke College
  • Marcia Brumit Kropf ’67, president, Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College
  • V. Radley Emes ’00, chair of the Association Nominating Committee, Alumnae Association Board of Directors
  • Ashanta Evans-Blackwell ’95, clerk, Alumnae Association Board of Directors and former member of the Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees
  • Shannon Gurek, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, Mount Holyoke College
  • Nancy Bellows Perez ’76, interim executive director of the Alumnae Association and former director-at-large of the Alumnae Association Board of Directors
  • Sally Sutherland, senior lecturer in English and former senior advisor to the president, Mount Holyoke College
  • Marija Tesla ’11, former president of the Mount Holyoke College Student Government Association and former member of the Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees

Joint Statement

A Joint Statement approved by the Trustees of Mount Holyoke College and the Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College Board of Directors

Introduction

Mount Holyoke College alumnae have given back passionately to the College since the early days of the institution’s founding. Our alumnae have shaped, sustained, and given voice to what it means to be a Mount Holyoke College graduate through their collective engagement, not only on behalf of the College, but also as leaders in the local, national, and global communities in which they live. This impact is deep, wide, and—importantly—cemented in their experiences at the College. Both the College and the Association recognize the value of the alumnae for their many varied contributions of time, expertise, and financial resources.

At a time when women were not permitted to be trustees of colleges, Mary Lyon founded the Memorandum Society (the forerunner to the Alumnae Association) to provide alumnae an independent voice and a financial role in the College’s future. In 1923, the Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College became an incorporated, not-for-profit organization with its own Board of Directors. Today, the Association remains an independent organization serving as a voice for more than 37,000 alumnae around the world.

Over the years, alumnae have continued to be involved in the life of the College, with students, and with each other. Together, our students and alumnae have demonstrated their commitment to the College’s mission of fostering liberal education for purposeful engagement in all aspects of society and through the creation of a powerful alumnae network. The College’s 37,000 alumnae have taken up Mary Lyon’s challenge to “Go forward, attempt great things, accomplish great things.” Our alumnae are often the College’s most valuable ambassadors, embodying the power and depth of a Mount Holyoke education.

As an institution with extraordinarily diverse student and alumnae populations, the College recognizes the importance of innovating and creating new mechanisms of alumnae engagement that are reflective not just of our global and diverse alumnae, but also of an increasingly fast-paced, digitally-interconnected, and globalized world.

The Commission on the Relationship Between the College and the Alumnae Association has therefore been of critical importance, given the need to maximize opportunities for alumnae to connect with the College and enhance collaboration among all who are responsible for sustaining the MHC mission. The Commission’s report submitted to the Board of Trustees and shared with the Alumnae Association Board of Directors on June 30, 2016, outlines proactive and collaborative operating principles and calls for new ways of approaching alumnae engagement in a world that is radically different from any other time in the College’s history. Indeed, the report honors the important and connected histories of the College and the Alumnae Association and acknowledges the need for evolution while making specific recommendations to both the Board of Trustees and the Alumnae Association Board of Directors, stating:

Our charge is also specific about outcome: a process for developing a shared mission and joint decision-making. We have developed a joint statement addressing mission and collaboration. The recommendations that follow speak directly to joint decision-making on matters of strategy, reporting, operations, and activities. Our commitment is to a new era of shared work, shared communications, and shared planning. Our commitment, above all, is to serve our alumnae—the embodiment of a Mount Holyoke education—in ways that honor and inspire their engagement with the College, with the Association, with one another, and with the ideals of the education that animate us all.

The College and the Alumnae Association both believe that a Mount Holyoke education is transformative and spans a lifetime. We are committed to working in close collaboration to continue to harness this shared experience for our alumnae. As the Alumnae Association motto states, “Once a student, always an alumna.” The facilitation of alumnae connections with students, with one another, and with the College are crucial to the well-being and future of not only the College, but to the larger leadership role Mount Holyoke has played in the global world as a pioneer and champion of women’s education and liberal learning.

The Alumnae Association

The Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College is an independent organization providing diverse programs, expertise, and resources to foster lifelong learning and empower alumnae to connect with each other and the College, and to create meaningful change in the world. The Alumnae Association is guided by more than 2,000 alumnae volunteers who are a driving force behind all that the Alumnae Association does. Nearly all events and communications relating to Mount Holyoke alumnae are managed by an alumnae volunteer–staff partnership.

In July 2015, the Board of Directors approved the Association’s Strategic Direction 2020, articulating both vision and mission statements that reflect the dynamic, global, and changing world all members of the alumnae community live in today.

VISION: The Alumnae Association connects the global community of Mount Holyoke women with each other and the College as we create meaningful change in the world.

MISSION: The Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College is an independent organization providing diverse programs, expertise, and resources to foster lifelong learning and empower alumnae to connect with each other and the College.

To accomplish this, the Alumnae Association is guided by four strategic priorities: build, grow, forge, and serve. By 2020, the Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College will achieve the following goals:

  • build awareness about the Association and clarity about its work
  • grow the base of connected alumnae through innovative approaches
  • forge a powerful partnership with the College
  • serve as a strong, independent voice in support of a Mount Holyoke education.

To accomplish these goals the Alumnae Association has identified strategies—its path forward—for each of these four strategic priorities along with clear objectives against which it will measure success on an annual basis. All of the Association work is designed to further those four priorities as the organization continues to make important accomplishments. Metrics to measure the progress and impact of alumnae engagement are being designed and will be reported annually.

Relationship Between the Alumnae Association and Offices Devoted to Fundraising

Founded in 1837, Mount Holyoke College, the first of the Seven Sisters, has a vibrant and important legacy that still lives today in large part due to gifts of time, talent, and financial support from its alumnae. Mount Holyoke has always valued all three equally, with the pragmatic approach of cultivating and engaging alumnae in ways that are holistic and interconnected. The College and the Alumnae Association acknowledge that alumnae giving comes in many forms, and that Mount Holyoke needs fully engaged alumnae who are volunteering and giving financially, as the aim of the institution is not only preservation, but also continued leadership as a pioneer in higher education.

To do this, the College and Alumnae Association work in close collaboration to ensure alignment of missions, goals, and programming. Effective fundraising relies on the meaningful engagement of alumnae as mentors, volunteers, and advisors. Ensuring the continued ability to deliver on the College’s mission is critical to supporting a vibrant alumnae network. Therefore, both the Alumnae Association and the Office of Advancement must remain innovative while building on each other’s synergies in a world that increasingly relies on affinity connections, technology solutions, and curated experiences in order to build deep engagement and encourage philanthropy.

While the Office of Advancement is responsible for choreographing the strategies and programs that grow alumnae gifts, everyone who is a part of the Mount Holyoke community has an interest in and responsibility for cultivating and supporting alumnae fundraising efforts. Sharing this responsibility positions Mount Holyoke as a leader poised to meet its goals and excel as an institution.

Conclusion

The world in which Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke was different from the one today, but the need for pioneering women—women who are adaptable, creative, analytical, and courageous in solving the problems they see before them—has not wavered. Her founding vision still drives Mount Holyoke and is the foundation on which its inclusive, daring, and diverse community was built. Mount Holyoke College and Mary Lyon’s vision are still alive today, in large part due to the College’s ability to create strong connections among its students, faculty, staff, and alumnae. MHC alumnae believe in the value of a women’s liberal arts education and want to make sure that the education and empowerment they received as students continues to be available to generations of women leaders. The Trustees of Mount Holyoke College and the Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College Board of Directors are committed to ensuring that the power of a Mount Holyoke network continues to engage and connect new generations of students and alumnae while honoring the College’s and Alumnae Association’s founding and traditions.

Adopted by:

The Trustees of Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College
Barbara Baumann signature Marcia Brumit Kropf signature
Barbara M. Baumann ‘77, Chair
August 5, 2016
Marcia Brumit Kropf ‘67, President
August 5, 2016