Rowing in the Same Direction

Bernadette mcfadden stout ac president new portrait 700x467 dsonmagsum22

Photo by Dan Loh.

By Alumni Council President Bernadette McFadden Stout ’07

I took the reins of the Alumni Council two years ago as the institution was facing a number of challenges and opportunities—President John E. Jones III ’77, P’11, was stepping into an interim role leading our institution, students were reengaging in in-person education for the first time in 18 months, prospective students were questioning the value proposition of a residential liberal-arts experience, young adults (and the population at large) were facing historically high rates of mental illness and the imperative for providing a diverse, equitable and inclusive experience was higher than ever. At the same time, Dickinson’s alumni had experienced five different presidents in less than 10 years and engagement rates were lackluster.

Now, as my term comes to a close, the feeling at Dickinson is markedly different. I feel momentum on campus and among our alumni body, and I see a clear path forward that will take these challenges head on, allowing the college to excel because of, not in spite of, them. As President Jones has said, Dickinson is “on the move,” and students and alumni alike are being asked to row in the same direction toward the goal of solidifying our place as one of the undeniably great institutions of higher education in the country. This summer, the Alumni Council will celebrate its 100th anniversary. We believe this is the right time to revisit the mission and operating model of the Alumni Council to ensure that we can help Dickinson meet this moment and chart a course for alumni participation over the next century.

As such, we are moving ahead to focus on the following mission:

The mission of the Alumni Council is to ACTIVATE the Dickinson alumni community by INCREASING and SUSTAINING engagement between and among students, alumni and the college.

We are focused on the following guiding principles to underpin all the council’s efforts: 

  • Activation of alumni should start from a student’s arrival on campus.
  • Engagement should be bidirectional, delivering value to current and future alumni.
  • The composition of the Alumni Council should reflect the breadth of talent, geography, background and experiences of the alumni body.

A celebration of the Alumni Council’s 100th anniversary will take place during Alumni Weekend (June 10-11). At that time, we will launch this renewed mission and approach while celebrating the Alumni Council’s past, present and future. If you’ve been involved in the Alumni Council in the past, or are interested in being involved in the future, please join us!

In my first column as president of the Alumni Council, I highlighted a theme: “Dickinson is where you are.” I challenged us to update our assumptions about how we build and nurture relationships with the college (and each other), by thinking about how technology and local engagement can help make us a better alumni body. Whether or not you aspire to join the Alumni Council, serve on a reunion committee or host an admitted student event, there are an increasing number of ways for you to be involved in your own way. Little things—wearing red on Fridays, posting job opportunities on LinkedIn, applying a Dickinson bumper sticker to your car—can expand the presence of our college in your life and in the wider world.

I conclude this final column with the same ask: Rethink how you engage with Dickinson and find new ways, which feel right for you, to give back to the college that we all hold so dear.

Read more from the spring 2023 issue of Dickinson Magazine.


Published May 12, 2023