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reed magazine logoSummer 2009
Sandy Blake Boles

Sandy Blake Boles ’92

Unpacking the Black Box

By Sandy Blake Boles ’92

“The Reed College Alumni Association exists to foster the continuing welfare of both the college and its alumni by promoting mutually beneficial interaction and a sense of community among alumni and between the college and its alumni.” (from the constitution of the association)

I am frequently asked what the alumni association’s board of directors does, and how one gets to serve on it. I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce myself, while also trying to explain some of those black box elements of the association.

My career in “politics” has been a whirlwind: I am a 1990 graduate in biology, who has, to my chagrin, never managed to live in a chapter city. Wherever I went, however—Long Island, Tidewater Virginia, North Carolina, Austin (and back to North Carolina!)—I sought out my fellow Reedies. In my early grad-school days I even went so far as to cold call one couple in rural Virginia, so desperate was my desire for the fellowship of another alum!

I was first nominated for the board in 2003. My name appeared along with my fellow nominees in Reed magazine, and by February 2004, you, my gracious constituents, had elected me (according our constitution, “in all offices for which there is only one nominee on February 15, the nominee shall be considered elected as of that date”). This is pretty much how it happens for most of us—we participate in alumni activities wherever and whenever we’re able, we volunteer on behalf of the college in one capacity or another (in my case I was an admissions volunteer for a number of years, and organized a potluck dinner)—and one day, out of the blue, we “get the call.” Something we’ve done has put us on the radar of a current board member, who thinks we might have something to offer. It’s a system that seems to work, but unless you’re a very careful reader of the magazine, you can be (perhaps quite blissfully) ignorant of the process. I certainly was!

What we actually do. . . We are a group of 25–30 alumni who donate our time to furthering the goal of the association as stated above. We do this in a number of ways—by promoting the efforts of local chapters, by recruiting volunteers, and by serving as a general advisory body to the office of alumni and parent relations. We meet five times a year, usually by teleconference, but in person on campus when we are able. The individual committees that make up the board meet more frequently, as they deem necessary.

This year we have pared the committee structure of the board down to two. With the rapid approach of the centennial, we felt it would be most fruitful to weight our efforts toward the endeavors of the centennial committee. These folks are working furiously to make the centennial events the best they can be for all our alums. The second committee, called Outreach, oversees and advises the local chapters, and is also charged with brainstorming and implementing new ways of engaging alums in the college community. Right now, Outreach is looking at ways to use electronic media to better reach Reedies and get them talking to each other. But even the folks on Outreach have their eyes on the centennial prize—how can WE get YOU to participate most fully in the centennial activities and celebrations that will be on the slate in 2011? We lie awake at night pondering this weighty issue…

Most of all, we think about how we might best represent and serve you, the members of the Reed College Alumni Association. We would like the channels of communication to be more open than they have perhaps been in the past. When you have an idea for an alumni event or feedback on something the association has done (or not done!), do you know where to direct it? Take the time to acquaint yourself with who we are—our contact information is in the online directory within IRIS—and drop us a line when you have something on your mind. We get fewer letters than your local congressperson, though of course we’re also less likely to be able to help you get into West Point…

Sandy is a researcher at Duke University, where she can frequently be spotted scurrying from one building to another in search of better cell phone reception.

reed magazine logoSummer 2009