Alumni Leadership Forum Inspires College Community
This past June, the Alumni Leadership Forum (ALF) welcomed 56 alumni volunteers interested in helping further the college’s goals. In addition to learning about how to support programs in Admissions, Alumni Relations, and Career Services, alumni also had the opportunity to return to the Program with lab, math tutorial, and seminar offerings.
Phelosha Collaros (SF00), president of the Alumni Association, has contributed significantly to the growth and success of ALF, which is a working group of the Alumni Association supported by the Alumni Relations offices on both campuses. Below, Phelosha reflects on the past, present, and future of the Alumni Leadership Forum:
The ubiquitous 5K: Race for the Cure, Run for the Zoo, even an event during our local Grecian festival called the Run for Ouzo. Apparently you haven’t really proven yourself until you’ve consecutively run over three miles and downed a few shots. Greeks… still hardcore after 3,000 years.
When asked to describe the Alumni Leadership Forum, my simple answer is that it’s the St. John’s College 5K. As with all these types of events, a group of supporters gather in the spirit of a common cause. There are both seasoned and new participants. There are organizers and motivators. And swag, there’s most definitely swag.
What’s important about this comparison is not actually the event itself. It’s the fact that the common cause which inspires it exists year-round and that supporters engage in that cause at many different levels in countless locations. The event is not formed by the simple boundaries of time and place. Conversely, it manifests as the culmination of people’s interests, energy, and commitment concentrating into one place and time.
Alumni who attend the Forum do so for one of three main reasons: to learn how they can help with the college’s current challenges and opportunities, to participate in onsite activities that positively impact students and alumni, and to teach each other what is being successfully done to support the Program and our community.
After attending this year’s ALF, Walter Sterling (A93), dean of the Santa Fe campus, said that he is not surprised by the dedication of St. John’s alumni and their care for the future of the college and the Program. “I am encouraged, in particular, by their recognition of the challenges we face in the current cultural, economic, and educational environment and by what seemed to me their immediate willingness and eagerness to help, especially in the Career Services and Admissions areas,” he said. “The anecdotes offered by alumni regarding internships they have offered to our current students were compelling, as was the interest in helping refer prospective students to the college and in promoting the exciting new opportunity we have in the Summer Academy.”
Learn. Do. Teach. A simple model with a powerful result. At this year’s Forum, attendees learned how to help with the admissions effort by spreading the word about—and starting scholarships for—the Summer Academy. Others wrote cards of encouragement to current students and notes of thanks to recent donors. One participant taught a group of fellow alumni how best to develop career-focused Facebook groups, resulting in the creation of four new career affinity sites for Johnnies by the Forum’s close.
The Forum shines a spotlight on something that is absolutely critical for a thriving community and college, but had not yet been given the attention it deserves: volunteer service. Service has been integral to the Forum since its early beginnings. The first time I was asked as an Alumni Association board member to work with a group of volunteers specifically to create an outcome for the college community was when I was asked to chair the ALF Working Group. We were the first volunteer group responsible for organizing and running the Forum.
A particular achievement that year was creating and evaluating applications for the very first ALF Opportunity Grants. We believed that as many alumni as possible should have the opportunity to participate, regardless of financial constraints. We asked the association board to start this program by helping fund five alumni to attend the Forum. The program continues to this day.
A culture of service creates opportunities. We alumni can create them for each other, for current students, and for the next generation of Johnnies. As we move forward, the Forum will increasingly become a think tank for creating opportunities and a community space for implementing them.
I hope that your enthusiasm for your peers and your experience at St. John’s, or your love for the Program and the college that makes it possible, leads you to the Forum. But you don’t have to wait until then to serve. Contact the Alumni Relations Office for available and upcoming volunteer activities or tools you can use to get started.
Then, take your passion and run with it.
More ALF feedback from St. John’s officers and administrators:
“The ALF leadership and volunteers have shown the college that our alumni continue to be the bastion of support that we need in these challenging times. I have never seen better support in my years at the college than we have today. We owe a great deal of thanks to those alumni who have guided us through the transition in the college’s relationship with the Alumni Association over the past few years, especially the leadership of Lee Katherine Goldstein (SFGI90), the association’s immediate past president.” —Chris Nelson, president, Annapolis
“The meeting this year continued, and solidified, the progress the ALF leadership, volunteers, and the college are making together on behalf of our students and alumni. It is heartening to see the commitment and dedication of the Alumni Association Board to the Alumni Leadership Forum. I want to join Chris in especially thanking Lee Katherine Goldstein for her leadership and support.” —Mike Peters, president, Santa Fe
“The two best things about ALF are 1) the number of alumni from all eras who exhibit energetic leadership and are interested in working withthe college, and 2) the focus of developing programs on the core areas of admissions, fundraising, and career mentoring. Creating a culture of shared responsibility for the future of St. John’s among those who best understand the importance (and magic!) of the experience is so important.” —Barbara Goyette (A73), vice president for Advancement, Annapolis
“We talk all the time at the college about how our graduates can do anything they want after St. John’s. What a joy to see that in action on behalf of this special and important college. The organizational intelligence, the sense of possibility backed by concrete proposals, the fresh perspectives on challenges facing the college, the willingness to roll up sleeves and get to work. All of this gave me the same great sense of purpose and possibility with which I used to leave seminar—only this time it wasn’t about the wonderful things that lay ahead for seminar, but for the college!” — Victoria Mora, vice president for Advancement, Santa Fe
“I was so excited to see the high level of enthusiasm and engagement alumni brought to this year’s ALF! It really shows such a dedication to the college and our offices, and I appreciate the efforts of those in attendance who have already helped out Career Services as well as those who showed an interest in helping us accomplish our goals moving forward.” —Jaime Dunn, director of Career Services, Annapolis
“It was wonderful to see so many alumni reconnecting with the college and, more importantly, with each other. The way they took to the spirit of collaboration from the ALF weekend and starting founding and growing affinity groups was truly amazing. St. John’s alumni seem to be realizing their power and potential, which is a wonderful resource for those of us in staff positions at the college. I’ve always thought that the wisdom and experience of alumni could be an incredible resource for many of our offices, but now that dream is becoming a reality. I look forward to the next steps.” —Margaret Odell, director of Career Services, Santa Fe