​A Call for Change

From the WCAA president

A photo of Laura Wood Cantopher '84

Photo by Bailey Davidson

Photo by Bailey Davidson

More than 1,500 alumnae currently volunteer on behalf of the College and their fellow alums. Their roles vary widely and include supporting connections among classmates by serving as class officers or reunion volunteers, encouraging regional engagement through clubs, and fostering community via shared identity groups. Wellesley volunteers support the Admission Office, Career Education, and the Development Office. Perhaps most importantly, we all “get the word out” about Wellesley.

It’s likely a Wellesley volunteer has encouraged you to attend an event like reunion, sponsor a HIVE internship, give to The Wellesley Fund, nominate an alumna you admire for an award, or suggest that you sign up to share your expertise through BlueSpeak, our new alumnae volunteer speakers bureau.

The members of the Alumnae Association Board of Directors are also volunteers. We meet three times a year and operate based on a set of bylaws and governance guidelines. I refer to these bylaws and guidelines on a regular basis; they are an owner’s manual of sorts for the work of the board. Recently, I reread the preface of the governance guidelines and was inspired by these words, written 20 years ago during a revision and update process:

Throughout its history, a Board of Directors (“Board”) has guided the Wellesley College Alumnae Association (“WCAA”). The Board has shaped the mission and priorities of the WCAA; supported and helped implement programs; and maintained an active connection between the WCAA, the alumnae body, and the College. Over time, the emphasis among these activities has not always been the same. To fulfill its role successfully, the Board has had to change to reflect changes at the College and in the lives of alumnae.

These words give me the permission and confidence to lead the current board in its efforts to align the WCAA with the strategic plan of the College. That plan calls upon us to use the power and influence of our alumnae to the greatest possible extent on behalf of the College and its alumnae. Over the past two years, the WCAA has been making concrete changes in its operations to do just that.

Kathryn Harvey Mackintosh ’03, WCAA executive director, has restructured staff roles to align with our aspirations. The editor of this magazine, Lisa Scanlon Mogolov ’99, and her staff have been collaborating with our colleagues in Communications and Public Affairs to share resources and content in order to reach more of you in exciting ways via both digital and print platforms. The WCAA has partnered with development staff to go “on the road” with President Paula Johnson, and those of you who attended recent events in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley can attest to their success.

These are just a few examples of the positive changes resulting from our journey to do our part to implement the College’s strategic plan. These powerful collaborations are taking place in spite of the challenges presented by the WCAA’s organizational structure as a separate 501(c) (3) from the College. The WCAA was created more than 100 years ago to provide a voice for alumnae, who at the time were not represented on the Wellesley College Board of Trustees, and to mobilize alumnae in support of fundraising priorities. Today, alumnae comprise more than 80% of the board, and the fundraising function previously coordinated by the WCAA has been professionalized as a function at the College for over 70 years.

The time is right to ask ourselves if our current structure best serves alumnae and the College. Are there ways we can integrate the WCAA even more closely with the College to fulfill the strategic plan and the WCAA mission? How can alumnae engagement be structured as a core function, rather than a separate entity? Is there a different structure that will allow WCAA staff and volunteers to drive more of the beloved programs that connect alumnae with one another and the College?

Fortunately, as we’ve just read together in the preface above, the alumnae who came before us empowered us to ask ourselves these questions. We are working to answer their call. The WCAA recently proposed structural changes to the College that will allow us to further harness the power and influence of Wellesley’s alumnae population to make a difference for us all. As I write this, we are actively discussing this proposal, which I look forward to sharing with you in the coming months. Stay tuned!

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