The Alumnae/Alumni Association is one of the more baffling entities that operates in the swampy marshes of New College. Students never receive any introduction to the group when they arrive for orientation, and in their upper years are often drowning in academics, so they never pay attention to the Association. Housed in the Keating Center on the bayfront side of campus, the Alumnae/Alumni Association is a nonprofit organization which functions as a separate committee under the sphere of the New College Foundation.
The purpose of the Association is to “promote communication among Alumnae/i and between Alumnae/i and New College, to sponsor activities and events for Alumnae/i, to advise the President of New College of Florida and the President of the New College Foundation, Inc. of Alumnae/i concerns and to provide financial and other assistance to New College in carrying out its educational mission,’” according to the New College Alumnae/i Association webpage.
The Association has a Board of Directors which carries out the administrative duties of the organization. Cindy Hill (‘89), the current chair of the Board, stressed the independence which the Board maintains.
“We’re not a separate corporation, we exist under the Foundation, but we are our own committee,” Hill said in a recent phone interview with the Catalyst. “We make our own decisions, the Foundation doesn’t dictate what we do, but we are under that umbrella.”
The Board refrains from advising the college on decision-making issues, but rather focuses on improving communication among alums and organizing reunions and out-of-state events. The members of the Board hold at least four annual meetings, two of which occur on campus in the Keating Center. Members who cannot attend in person can participate in the meetings via phone call. Hill emphasized the openness of these two on-campus meetings, which typically see little outside participation.
“The idea is that alums, and for that matter anybody, can come to the meetings if they want to,” Hill explained. “It tends to be that the meetings that we have at reunions [or graduation] are the ones that people will occasionally show up for.”
The Board receives information about current events on campus from staff at the Foundation, who also helps provide communication between the Board and the rest of the Association. Hill recognized the Foundation’s help, as many members of the Foundation are also New College alums.
“I can say the Foundation is very supportive of the alums, since they recognize part of the giving base is the alums, part of keeping the college successful is the alums,” Hill said.
While the Association does not officially have any formal interaction with current students, in the past few years the organization has attempted to provide students with opportunities to connect with alums. Local alums with similar professions came to campus to talk with students about their experiences in their process of job finding. Called “Coffee Talks,” these events lasted for the 2017-2018 academic year under the direction of alumna Michelle Flint (‘91) at the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO). Aside from the “Coffee Talks,” the Association lacked the resources to carry out more programming with students.
“We haven’t had resources to try to do an official mentorship program, because unfortunately we are a small college and we just don’t have the resources like University of Florida has,” Hill said.
Hill stressed that the Association wished to help as much as they could, but the lack of structure impeded their intentions.
“For decades we haven’t, as an institution, been able to take advantage of the opportunities that Sarasota offers and the opportunities that alums can offer to students in a structural way,” Hill said. “The wish has always been there: the structure hasn’t.”
Jim Tietsworth (‘84), an ophthalmologist and board member since 2016, joined the Association’s Board of Directors with the initial intention of helping students with hopes of applying to medical school. However, he quickly found bureaucratic potholes blocking his efforts to carry out his own programming.
“Some of the initial interactions I had, with the CEO and also with some Foundation folks, was this idea [from the people I talked to that] we have this under control,” Tietsworth explained in a phone interview with the Catalyst. “Basically I heard, let the school run with this and if the school feels they can utilize their help then they can contact you.”
Previously, Tietsworth had also attempted to take part in a mentorship program that he was informed of via email, but the program lacked the necessary follow-through and Tietsworth never heard about it again. Tietsworth does not use Facebook so he does not have access to the NC(F) Daimon Facebook page, where current students and alums can communicate without hassle. While he recognizes the importance of the Facebook page, Tietsworth wants to facilitate a formal line of communication between the Board and the students. Through the help of Foundation staff member Kathleen McCoy, Tietsworth found this potential connection with thesis student Eva Ernst, New College Student Alliance’s (NCSA) Vice President of Relations and Financial Affairs (VPRFA). The two have scheduled a meeting for Nov. 7 to come together and bridge the gap between students and alums. Tietsworth wants to gather information from the student perspective, in the hopes that the Association can gain a new insight into the student experience in addition to what the Foundation tells them.
“Where are areas where things are lacking,” Tietsworth asked. “What can the Alumni/Alumnae Association do for students?”
Despite a stagnant history, the Alumnae/i Association seems to have found a new confidence in their communication with students.
Students can currently contact alums through the NC(F) Daimon Facebook page, but can also reach out to Kathleen McCoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they want to connect with a specific alum or group of alums.
Information for this article was gathered from ncf.edu. Catalyst staff writer Bailey Tietsworth interviewed his father Jim Tietsworth for this story.