June 2010 cover SCAN - St. Catherine University St. Catherine University
June 2010
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Lifelong Learners and Leaders

New structure for Alumnae Association would offer an array of opportunities

Imagine if every graduate thought first of St. Catherine University as an ongoing resource for networking, career advice and intellectual stimulation. Think about the possibilities of alumnae working to recruit future Katies or helping new graduates get their first jobs — or helping themselves through new educational opportunities in graduate programs and distance learning.

Consider how the University's influence could spread if alumnae across the country viewed themselves as "brand ambassadors," as carriers of the message about the values-based liberal arts education they received — and on which their own personal reputations are built.

This new paradigm for alumnae engagement — brought forward by Vice President for External Relations Marjorie Mathison Hance '70 — is being considered and given shape by a task team appointed by St. Catherine President Andrea J. Lee, IHM.

— Ruth Haag Brombach '60,
Executive Director, Alumnae

With a vision to embrace alumnae as "lifelong leaders and learners," the task team is proposing that the University more deliberately engage alumnae in the life of the institution.

Rather than maintain the Alumnae Association as a separate nonprofit entity, St. Catherine would assume responsibility for alumnae relations under the Division of External Relations. The University would allocate increased funding for the work of alumnae relations, establish an alumnae Council of 200 to ensure broad representation and adopt the best practices of 18 institutions across the country that the task team has researched.

Naturally, questions arise:

  • Which Alumnae Association programs do our graduates most want continued?
  • What new opportunities can be made available to alumnae?
  • How might students be more involved in alumnae programs?
  • Where can alumnae talents most benefit the University?

Below are answers to these and other questions, based on documents prepared by the task team and conversations with Ruth Haag Brombach '60, executive director of the Alumnae Association; Linda Theis Thrasher '88, incoming president; and Mathison Hance, who is the task team chair. Voting is scheduled for August 10.

What would be retained under the new structure?
Let's start with what alumnae are telling us they'd like us to keep: reunions, Conversation with Books, chapter events, the Memorial Mass, nurses' luncheon, networking opportunities, lifelong learning and affinity groups (e.g., for people who work in certain places, such as 3M, or in specific areas, such as homemaking or the legal profession). We will make every effort to maintain programs that alumnae love.

— Margie Mathison Hance '70,
Task Team Chair

What would change?
Our strategic plan, approved in 2009 by the Board of Trustees, emphasizes growth in both graduate and distance learning. In addition to programs and services offered through the alumnae relations office, alumnae would be invited to participate in academic courses and graduate degrees as well as programs delivered online.

Other parts of the University can provide additional opportunities for alumnae, such as expanded career services and even international programs. Enrichment classes, lectures and visionary conferences could be offered in electronic format.

Why is this change being proposed now?
St. Catherine's shift to university offers new, significant opportunities to engage and empower alumnae — women and men — at every degree level. The four new Schools can provide academic programs of interest to alumnae and new learning opportunities. Instead of trying to coordinate alumnae engagement with 45 different academic departments, it can be done more easily with the Schools.

The interaction within Schools will address specific areas of alumnae interest and complement the other alumnae activities coordinated through Alumnae Relations.

How is our alumnae population different than in years past?
In 1975, the College of St. Catherine had 10,000 alumnae, primarily in the baccalaureate (Day) program. Flash forward to 2010. We now have more than 36,000 alumnae from associate (including St. Joseph's and St. Mary's diploma programs for nurses), baccalaureate Day, baccalaureate Weekend, master's and doctoral programs.

What would be possible under the new structure that isn't happening now?
The possibilities are limited only by budget and time. We could develop an alumnae corps of volunteers who engage in the work of St. Catherine University, whether it's mentoring students, helping us develop our social networking presence or lending gardening expertise to the St. Paul campus (the "spade brigade").

Perhaps we'd appoint a visiting alumna scholar each year or ask alumnae to assist in sponsoring student events. Alumnae chapters across the country could sponsor receptions for students in their area who will attend St. Kate's. The career development office can provide job postings for alumnae. We can expand the mentoring initiatives currently underway.

Long-lasting, effective alumnae relations begins the day that students walk in the door. What kind of meaningful projects could alumnae and students work on together — in the process developing mentoring relationships and lifetime friendships?

Would alumnae continue to receive SCAN?

What is the Council of 200?
It's less daunting than it sounds. This group would provide input across the University into activities involving alumnae. Membership would include past Alumnae Association presidents, a representative of each alumnae chapter, representatives of targeted groups (such as young alumnae), alums who are former trustees, student representatives and alumnae representatives of all degree levels (associate, baccalaureate and graduate), with the largest representation from the baccalaureate Day program.

The Council would meet annually in St. Paul and provide input into lifelong learning opportunities, academic programs, recruitment of students, fundraising and special events.

What changes would this produce inside the University?
For engagement with alumnae to be broader and bigger, alumnae relations has to be owned by the entire institution rather than a separate body. This is all about creating ownership within St. Catherine University on behalf of alumnae.

With alumnae affairs under the jurisdiction of the vice president for external relations, alumnae would have representation at the cabinet level — meaning the cabinet would have responsibility for implementing strategies on behalf of alumnae. Many departments would be involved, including the four Schools, career development, admissions, student affairs and development.

So, what's next?
The task team has gone through an intense and thoughtful process. More than 200 alumnae attended the annual meeting in Rauenhorst Hall in May where they heard a presentation by Marjorie Mathison Hance with remarks from Ruth Brombach about this change.

The next step is for alumnae to offer opinions and ideas, to raise questions and, ultimately, to vote on a specific proposal. The Alumnae Association board and the task team are working on a memorandum of understanding that will spell out details of the proposed new alignment.


From the Heart of the Campus

Alumnae Task Team

President Andrea J. Lee, IHM, appointed a task team last winter to analyze how St. Catherine could incorporate the Alumnae Association into the University structure.

The 15-person group is made up of representatives from the Alumnae Association, current and former members of the Board of Trustees, and faculty and staff.

ALUMNAE ASSOCIATION: Board member Cathy Bendel '81, Executive Director Ruth Haag Brombach '60, past President Colleen Curran '75, outgoing President Yvonne Houle-Gillard '91 and incoming President Linda Theis Thrasher '88.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES: Jane Keefe Clifford '45, Anne Ward Miller '63, Joanne Jirik Mullen '83, Colleen O'Malley '63, CSJ, and Ann Buckingham Ryan '75.

FACULTY AND STAFF: Vice President for External Relations Marjorie Mathison Hance '70 (chair), Director of the Annual Fund Sarah Berger '00, Associate Dean Toné Frank Blechert M '67 and MAOL '93, Senior Vice President Colleen Hegranes and Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs Beth Koenig '92.

To learn more or ask a question, visit the Vision for Alumnae website.