Dickinson will invite students back for the spring. Campus buildings are closed and face coverings are required on campus.
by Tony Moore
Notable economic events have a way of serving as catalysts for change—both good and bad—and the Great Recession of 2008-09 was no exception. But something few people would guess is that Dickinson has that slowdown to thank for its Young Alumni Trustee (YAT) program.
"We recognized after the recession that a lot of Dickinson alumni were having a tough time in the job market, and we thought we really needed input from younger graduates who had their finger on the pulse of current student issues and their concerns,” says Michael Bloom ’69, the chair of the committee on governance for Dickinson’s Board of Trustees. “So as an experiment we established the Young Alumni Trustees program.”
That spring 2011 experiment led to the college designating two new positions on the board for graduating seniors—for which they receive between 25 and 40 applications each year—and the new YAT is announced annually at Commencement. The staggered terms last two years, and the YATs must attend three on-campus meetings per year, serve on two committees and “engage in meaningful ways with the current student body and young alumni.” And it’s clear that the level of engagement is high.
From left to right: Laura Wilson Colony ’11, Darrell Pacheco ’12, Sara Nash ’19 and Ian Genao ’20.
“I’ve had a voice and an immediate impact even before my term officially began,” says Ian Genao ’20, the college’s newest Young Alumni Trustee, who stays in contact with campus organizations to further students’ goals. “This level of involvement was immediately available to me and shows Dickinson’s true commitment to this position and the importance of my voice in the decision-making process.”
Now the initiative is celebrating its 10th anniversary, a decadelong testament to the college’s commitment to giving voice to the next generation of alumni.
“The board should be operating at a 50,000-foot level, but they must have a pulse on the student experience to ensure that strategic initiatives are relevant and impactful,” says Sara Nash ’19, the senior member of the board’s two current YATs. “As a recent student and a member of the board, the Young Alumni Trustee can voice both the day-to-day and strategic perspectives.”
“ We’ve never had a Young Alumni Trustee who was afraid to voice their opinion, and their opinions are highly valued—they’re powerful on key issues. So something that started out as an experiment has proved to be a great success.”
— Michael Bloom ’69, chair of the committee on governance for Dickinson’s Board of Trustees
And while the position isn’t designed to be a stepping stone to becoming a full board member, it’s now happened twice, first with Laura Wilson Colony ’11 and then again with Darrell Pacheco ’12.
“As the first Young Alumni Trustee, I was learning how to navigate the role with no path to follow,” says Colony, explaining that the difference between serving as a YAT and a full board member comes down to “learning mode versus action mode. This time around, I have new goals, a different perspective and more experience to bring to the table.”
The YAT serves as a perfect bridge between current students and those board members and their valuable life experiences, and Pacheco says serving as the YAT is a great way to hit postgrad life running. “I encourage others to strive for the role, because it’s a unique opportunity for hands-on learning on a dynamic board,” he says. “This experience early on in one’s career is game changing."
Read more from the fall 2020 issue of Dickinson Magazine.
Published November 6, 2020