Our View: Enhancing Engagement

marsha ray

Marsha Ray

Marsha Ray, Vice President for College Advancement

There was much to celebrate during Commencement weekend this May, but one thing that really caught my attention was just how well our speaker, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “got” Dickinson. It wasn’t just the impressive red devil pin she wore to Saturday evening’s reception. It was something she said to the new crop of graduates Sunday morning.

After telling the class of 2014 they face a future filled with challenges, Albright reminded them that they do not face this future alone. “You are already part of an international network that expands beyond the digital bounds of Facebook,” she told the graduates.

She also spoke highly of the “tremendous education” they received and how Dickinson’s commitment to the useful liberal arts is “more relevant than ever.” But her line about this “international network” highlighted a distinctive institutional strength that we sometimes overlook. Dickinson is not just a college; it is an engaged, supportive community and network of 35,000 alumni, parents, friends, students, faculty and staff.

Evidence of how deeply our community members are engaged with the college and with one another was on display throughout the weekend. You could see it in the proud parents and alumni cheering on the graduates. And you could see it in the more than 60 alumni family members spanning multiple generations who came back to present diplomas to legacy graduates.

As someone who is still new to this community, I can tell you that this kind of alumni and parent involvement is unique and very powerful. Clearly, my challenge at Dickinson is not to drum up engagement, but rather to meet that engagement where it is — to provide our community members with more opportunities to deepen their connection to the college.

To that end, we’re launching several new initiatives in the coming year. One of the most visible will be One College One Community. This new program, developed with the Alumni Council, will connect you with students and faculty to consider, discuss and debate a common theme each semester through regional and live-streaming on-campus events.

In the fall we will focus on Rose-Walters Prize winner James Balog, whose stunning photography captures climate change’s impact on glaciers. More information on specific events will be coming your way in the near future.

In addition to this opportunity to connect through lifelong learning, we are working to strengthen our regional club programs, providing more consistent support from the college to help you make the most of the Dickinson community in your area. We’re also working to enhance career-networking opportunities, strengthen our volunteer program and launch an alumni-student mentorship initiative. And we’re reworking the alumni Web pages to make them consistent with the recently redesigned Dickinson Web site and to ensure that they meet to your needs.

The Dickinson community is strong and active. My hope is that by shaping our programs to your interests, we’ll be able to leverage the power of this global network to further strengthen our community and the college. Dickinson’s future belongs to all of us. As the link between the past and that future, our alumni, parents and friends play an important role in the life of the college. I look forward to working with you to maximize your impact on Dickinson — and Dickinson’s impact on you.

Learn more

Read more from the summer 2014 issue of Dickinson Magazine.

Published July 22, 2014