Photo by Webb Chappell
Kathryn Harvey Mackintosh ’03 was making her way across campus to the final round of interviews for a job she very much hoped to land—executive director of the Wellesley College Alumnae Association—when suddenly, something along the path caught her eye.
A small yellow duck.
“Oh my gosh, isn’t that funny?” she thought. Then she realized the entire path was lined with ducks. “I got teary. It was just so incredible,” she says.
For Mackintosh, rubber ducks always remind her of Wellesley, and her yellow class specifically. For their senior prank, she and her classmates covered the campus with 2,003 numbered rubber ducks, some of which still reside in faculty offices today. Mackintosh isn’t someone who believes in signs, but the ducks, part of an activity sponsored by the Office of Student Involvement, provided a warm welcome for the long day of interviews ahead.
Now, a small yellow duck will be taking up residence in the executive director’s office at the WCAA, as Mackintosh takes the reins of the organization on July 29. She says that everything about the job “is right in my wheelhouse.” Mackintosh has spent her entire career in higher education, most recently at Boston College as director of institutional research. She has also worked in M.B.A. admissions both for BC and MIT Sloan School of Management—she herself holds an M.B.A. from BC—and has done employer outreach and business development work at Emmanuel College. Right out of college, she even spent a year doing institutional fund-raising work. “I feel like I have a good breadth of knowledge of this industry,” Mackintosh says.
Laura Wood Cantopher ’84, who chaired the WCAA’s executive director search committee, says the committee learned that “people love working with [Mackintosh]” and that she excels at building partnerships across constituencies and collaborating with a wide array of colleagues. Mackintosh herself lists reaching out to alumnae volunteers, campus partners, and WCAA staff among her highest priorities: “So much of what we need to do is establish good working relationships, and they have to be built on trust. … I’m a very trusting person, but I know not everyone is like that. So starting to build trust … a lot of work goes into that, and a lot of listening.”
Part of that listening will focus on learning how a very diverse alumnae body wants to connect with the WCAA and the College. “A baseline,” Mackintosh says, “is to find out what it is about their experience at Wellesley that is important to them and resonates with them, [what] they hold onto as valuable in their life post-Wellesley, and then figuring out how the WCAA fits into that and can leverage that.” She wants less to tell alumnae why they should connect than to ask them how connections can be relevant and meaningful to a wide array of people.
“We need to make sure that as the Alumnae Association, we are being as inclusive as possible,” Mackintosh says. Shared identity groups are “a really important start,” but she also wants to figure out “how we can improve, how we can grow.” However alumnae are connecting—whether through classes, clubs, SIGs, or in other ways—she sees the potential for harnessing technology in new ways to bring people together.
Mackintosh makes no bones about the fact that she is “awed by Wellesley alums”—by all their talents and strengths—and is tremendously excited at the prospect of helping to bring them together. Then she tells a story on herself, about letting her colleagues at BC know that she would be going to Wellesley. “A couple of people have said, ‘Oh, that must be your dream job,’ which is wonderful and very supportive and gracious of them. It has also made me realize that maybe I talked about Wellesley a little too much. … But I think that will maybe serve me well in my new position.”
One dream job, and one rubber duck, coming right up.