Valuing alumni for more than their money

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Haris Aqeel Contributing Writer As Macalester moves to establish an Institute for Global Studies and Citizenship, it must seek greater alumni involvement before, and after, the Institute’s structure crystallizes.

We alumni have much to offer. Macalester need only ask.

Collectively, Macalester alumni have the best institutional memory of any of the college’s constituencies. The administration has often cited student turnover as a challenge to involving students in long-term structural discussions, and alumni involvement helps solve this problem.

After graduating from our “student” identities, alumni remember what we learned on campus and remain committed to the college’s mission. Many of us live in the Twin Cities. Many more read The Mac Weekly and remain connected with staff, faculty, students, and other alums. We carry Macalester’s mission statement through our post-Mac lives. We are here to help.

We can also contribute substantially to manifesting the Board of Trustees’ 2002 resolution laying out a vision for the now-nascent Institute:

“The College is hereby committed, as an element of its mission, to provide a learning experience that, among its values, serves to instill in its students an active and abiding sense of civic responsibility. The College further embraces the conviction that the processes and institutions of a healthy democracy… establish for every citizen a responsibility, to contribute significantly to a more inclusive, just and compassionate society. Pursuant to this commitment, the College will develop and administer an ongoing program that is designed appropriately to engage all constituencies of the institution” (emphasis ours).

Many alumni have years, if not decades, of experience as active citizens in our communities, locally and globally. To students who want to make a difference, we can provide real-world insights, experiences, mentorship and training that many professors cannot (not to besmirch professors–they will obviously be essential to a healthy Institute).

Of course, while alumni have much more to offer than money, alumni are a financial resource. The Institute will need funding support from alumni. Donors are always more willing to support structures they helped create and actively participate in.

So we ask that alumni be actively involved in both the Institute’s planning and operations. To that end, we have the following suggestions:

A. Community gatherings should be held where college administrators and faculty involved in the Institute’s creation can field questions and comments from alumni.

B. The Institute’s steering committee should have at least one alumni member. There is precedent for such involvement, most recently with the steering committee that formed structures for the offices of the Dean of Multicultural Life and the Dean of Race and Ethnicity.

C. Alumni who do not live in the Twin Cities should be invited to participate via the Macalester Today alumni magazine.

In recent discussions, President Rosenberg has been very open to involving alumni in the planning of this Institute. A group of alumni, led by Elana Wolowitz 04 and Danny Schwartzman04, have already offered a vision, one that complements the resolution above by recognizing that the Institute must have an open and engaging structure with a leader with whom students, staff and faculty feel comfortable collaborating. An Institute that connects with the college, helping students to become more effective citizen-leaders, is absolutely necessary.

The institute is a groundbreaking venture that stands to establish Macalester as a national leader in the field of civic engagement. Yet even if Macalester garners no apparent benefit from the institute, it is still a worthy pursuit because service to society is an elemental part of Macalester’s mission and identity. We look forward to an institute that engages all of Macalester’s constituencies and community partners by celebrating this core value.

Contact Haris Aqueel ’04 at [email protected] Contact Nick Berning ’02 at [email protected]